The Noblest Profession in Medicine: An Eternal Thanks to Great Nurses

It’s Nurses Week and there are a lot of adulations being offered on social media and throughout hospitals regarding the appreciation we have for those among us who have chosen to be on the “front lines” of caring for us when ill or injured.

As an emergency physician I could speak about the many times a nurse has grabbed me and pulled me into a room with the words “you have to see this person RIGHT NOW,” and they were always right. I have had nurses question times I was going to discharge a patient because they did not “look right.” And again, they were right. 

I can speak of the 20 years of clinical practice and the truly great nurses with whom I have worked. I had an advantage. I was well trained. My sister practiced as a critical care nurse, my wife was a procedural sedation nurse and my daughter is now a novice nurse working in the field of emergency medicine.

Being a nurse means being the one really at the bedside as I move in and out evaluating patients and writing orders. Like magic, those orders get translated to a task list that includes evaluating the patient for severity, placing them on monitors, starting IVs, drawing blood, placing foleys and administering meds. The good nurses establish rapport with a kind word or a joke to put the patient at ease. I have witnessed countless good nurses practicing their chosen profession.

Nurses are also the ones who bear the brunt of the patient’s anger, or clean them up when they vomit or soil themselves. They act as a surrogate family to patients and often get to know details of a patient’s life simply because they are the ones spending the time to explore that life. Most thank you notes I see pinned to the bulletin board at many places I practice are not about the care they received from the physician but the kindness they were shown by the nurse. That is as it should be.

Being noble is defined as having, showing, or coming from personal qualities that people admire (such as honesty, generosity, courage, etc.) There are a few noble professions in this world. Practicing medicine is one of them. And being a nurse is perhaps the noblest in the house of medicine.

To all the great nurses I have known and with whom I have had the privilege to work I offer my eternal thanks and gratitude. You deserve to hear it everyday.