CATES: A belated happy nurses, hospital, teachers, and graduation week

By Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN

Chief Nursing Officer

Odessa Regional Medical Center

The week of May 7-14, 2023, with a bit of variation on stop and start dates, was the week that honored a whole lot of people who are incredibly important not just to me personally, but to us as a society.

It was Nurses Week, a week to honor the most trusted professionals in healthcare. It was Hospital Week, a week to honor the huge multidisciplinary team it takes to make a hospital, the haven for the most vulnerable in our society, work well. It was Teacher Appreciation Week, a week to show teachers, the people who help create our future, how much we appreciate the hard work we do, and finally it was graduation week for many colleges. They are the future everyone in the first three groups had a part in creating in those graduates as they were born and grew up to be healthy, well-educated adults. I wanted to take a few minutes to just tell each of those groups thank you and congratulations today, even though it is a bit belated.

First, I wanted to talk about Nurses Week. The American Nurses Association theme for the week is, “You make a difference.” I like that theme because as a nurse myself, there are days I need that reminder. While nursing has become a well-paying job, there isn’t enough money to pay nurses, or anyone in healthcare, what they deserve.

Nursing can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. I don’t know very many nurses who haven’t had an experience that has woken them up at night with a nightmare or kept them awake wondering if they missed something or could have done something differently. I have, and I know many nurses who also have physical scars from nursing because of work related injuries. I have, and I know many nurses who have been a last confessor, held the hand of a dying patient who had no one there, and even done baptisms and last rights, even though we are not formal clergy, because we are the only ones who can.

When you are a nurse, you are always a nurse. It’s not something you can “turn off” when you leave work. Every nurse I know has been approached by a neighbor, friend, or relative and asked to look at a wound, a kid with a rash or bump or bruise, and symptoms of an illness with the question, “What should I do?” And, while the answer is very often, “go see a doctor,” I know we always try to help. Except for 2001, when firefighters rightfully won that honor, nurses have been honored as the “most trusted profession” by national polls every year that trusted profession polling has existed. I think that the fact that nurses always try to help is why. That is also why I think we need reminding we make a difference, because sometimes the help we can give is just not enough—which is the reason for the nightmares and sleepless nights. So, from me to my colleagues, please remember, you make a HUGE difference! Thank you for being a nurse!

Hospital Week overlaps Nurses Week, which is fitting, because in hospitals, most employees are nurses. But nurses cannot make a hospital work without a myriad of other people. From housekeepers to physicians and everyone in between, a hospital is not a building, it is a massive group of people all working for one goal, to get someone ill or injured well enough to be taken care of with a little help, or if we cannot get them well, to give them the best possible quality of life for the little time they have left. That is what I like best about Hospital Week, its not about honoring one profession in healthcare, it’s about honoring the team. It’s about recognizing none of us are in this alone, even patients and families play a part in making a hospital work and work well. If you work in a hospital, Thank You!

Another job that there will never be a big enough paycheck for is being a teacher. Being a teacher is tough. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it is to work with children every day, especially in a world of AI, social media, and increasing school violence. Yet, teachers still manage to motivate and inspire kid to grow and learn and be better. Everyone I ask about who influenced them to become the person they are today will name family and a teacher. That certainly is true for me. Mine was a professor at Texas A&M who told me “Genius is not explaining a concept to a colleague, genius is being able to explain a concept to anyone.” Teachers hold our future. The truly deserve the honor of recognition. Thank You Teachers! You are amazing.

For those of you who graduated recently or are about to graduate, Thank you too. Thank you for the hard work in preparing for the future and I hope you go on to make a difference as well. Make sure as you graduate, you thank your parents and teachers, and all the other people who made your hard work possible. Thank You and Congratulations!

Lastly, I want to thank one more person. Our Texas Rep. Brooks Landgraf. Brooks, along with several of his colleagues in the Texas House and Senate wrote several bills, which were eventually combined into one bill, SB 840, to help protect healthcare workers from violence in Texas hospitals. Just as Nurses week and Hospital week commenced, SB 840 passed both the Texas House and Senate, and if signed by Governor Abbott, it will increase the charges and penalties for those who knowingly commit assault and battery against health care workers in hospitals. Thank you, Brooks, for working to make hospitals, and those that work in them, safer. You, too, make a difference.