Over the course of the last two years, we’ve heard a lot about nurses all across the globe as they’ve helped navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. National Nurses Week is May 6-12, and as we reflect on the last few years and where we are now, there’s no better time to recognize these incredible individuals who give so selflessly to help others.

Our theme this year is “Nurses Make a Difference,” and they certainly do! While I could spend several hours talking about the many contributions nurses make, it would likely be much too lengthy for anyone to read. So, I will narrow the focus to hit on three key points.

First, nurses make a difference by advocating for patients. To me, this is the number one way in which nurses impact the safe, quality care that is provided. How do nurses advocate? By navigating our very complex healthcare system; by explaining treatments and medications in a way that is understandable; and by collaborating with other healthcare teammates to ensure a safe transition of care, whatever that means for each individual patient. Be assured that a nurse is behind the scenes orchestrating many aspects of care, from conception to end of life and everything in between.

While many of the differences nurses make are interwoven, the other two points that we will discuss are really integrated, and they are providing health education that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Many of our diseases and disease processes are the result of the choices that we make. When the choices we make negatively impact our wellbeing, the role of the nurse is to ensure that patients have all of the information needed to make an informed decision that could impact their lifestyle. Examples include the connection between smoking and cancer, or how eating unhealthily can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, elevated blood pressure and more. Certainly genetics (which we cannot change) play a big role in our health, and making those changes that positively impact our life could improve our healthcare outcomes.

The last two years dealing and managing a pandemic has certainly been a challenge for all of us in healthcare. Taking time over the next month is even more important to recognize and appreciate the nurses that truly make a difference in our organizations and throughout our communities. Nurses are the ones that families reach out to for guidance, advocate for patients throughout the healthcare continuum and help us understand the risk benefits of the decisions we make every day. On behalf of my nurse colleagues at Iredell Health System and throughout our community – Happy Nurses’ Month. Each and every one of you make a huge difference in the patients we serve.

Becky Wagner is Vice President of Nursing and Patient Services at Iredell Health System.

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