Nurses - The Unsung Heroes

Nurses should never minimize the role they play in the lives of their patients. Nurses are the ones who are at the bedside after all the other providers have left. They are the glue that holds the healthcare system together. They are the unsung heroes.


Once again it is National Nurses Day and the start of National Nurses Week, which always begins on May 6 and goes through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. This is the week set aside to recognize the contributions and commitments nurses make, a time to educate the public about the significant work they do, and a time for showing appreciation to all the nurses.

There are many types of activities planned throughout this week which include banquets, recognition dinners, and lunches. Nurses are honored with gifts, receptions, cards, and flowers by friends and family members, and even co-workers. Some hospitals stagger activities throughout the day and night so that all shifts can participate in the celebration.

While it is nice to be recognized during Nurses Week, some of the most memorable gifts of appreciation come from patients......not just during Nurses Week, but throughout the year. Sometimes these expressions of gratitude come at unexpected but opportune times. They come after long working hours, when nurses are tired and wondering if they are in the right profession........when some are questioning themselves whether they are making any difference.

Nurses work long and hard hours in many different settings, during many different shifts. Their job is not an easy one. Many nursing jobs involve physical demands. While the physical side of the job is tiring, the mental aspect is so much more draining. Many times, it is after a crisis that we realize the impact we have had......either in saving a life or helping someone slip into a peaceful death.

Nurses must possess many qualities. They must have compassion and endurance to meet the needs of the patient, whether it be in the middle of the night or at shift change. Nurses must have patience and courage as they talk with physicians. Above all else, nurses must always advocate for the patient, using their knowledge, skills, and professionalism to insure the quality of care the patient needs and deserves from the healthcare system.

Nurses should never minimize the role they play in the lives of their patients. Nurses are the ones who are at the bedside after all the other providers have left. They are the glue that holds the healthcare system together. They are the unsung heroes.

Steve Lopez, a contributor to the L. A. Times wrote a story about his close encounter with death. He went into cardiac arrest following a knee-replacement surgery. He credits the actions of a quick-acting and alert nurse who saved his life and opened his eyes to the compassion and dedication of his medical team.

He thanked the doctors, but wanted to say something special about the nurses who knew just what to do when he arrested and sprung into action.

"Nurses quietly go about their work in a noble profession, uncelebrated soldiers toiling through the days and nights in service to the sick, the injured and the dying." Steve Lopez, LA Times

I have a box in my office where I keep notes and cards I have received from patients or family members. They certainly brightened my day when I received them, and they serve as a reminder to me that yes.......what I do does make a difference.

To all you wonderful nurses, I would like to say thank you for your dedication to the profession and your ability to make a difference in a person's life, not only during Nurse Week, but every day of the year! Happy Nurses Week!

What are some of the memorable expressions of gratitude you have received that made your day?


Lopez, Steve. A Note of Gratitude to Nurses, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1, 2012

Read Nursing: Then and Now and other articles in my Body, Mind, and Soul blog.

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Specializes in NICU.

I received a gift from the mom of a preemie that I had cared for. This was 14 years ago. Her son was born after only 24 weeks gestation, and weighed 1 lb. 11 oz at birth. I had been his primary nurse. He developed severe ROP (retinopathy of prematurity: abnormal vessel formation in the eye, and detachment of the retina). After 2 failed laser surgeries to attempt to save his sight, she had been told that he would be blind. I remember what she said to me the day she found out. "I'm a teacher. How am I supposed to teach him his colors if he can't see.?" We sat together as she cried and mourned the loss of his sight.

Before he was discharged, she gave me a plaque. It said "Friend, you came in just when the whole world had gone out." I still have it.

Her son is now 14 and in middle school. He has a Braille instructor/assistant that helps him. He has a very small amount of vision, & has done well in school.:D


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

154 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

What a great story, twinkletoes! That just goes to show that a thank you goes a long way....even after 14 years.

Thanks for sharing.


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

154 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Nurses Day 2013 is almost over. Did anyone have any special celebrations at work?

About all I got was an email thanking me and a bunch of other nurses for the volunteer work we do for a clinic. That was appreciated....and unexpected.

But......most of the patients we see there every week thank us profusely. For without the clinic and its volunteers, they would have nowhere to go for health care. So knowing that I am helping the truly needy is plenty of thanks for me,


71 Posts

I'm not a nurse..... YET.... But, I spent 8 years prior to my current job working at an OB/GYN office as an MA. One of the pts was a high risk pregnancy and was in the office twice weekly for NST's. I spent a great deal of time with her during the appts. We both have a child the same age and we spent a lot of time discussing our sons, who also had close birthdays. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she happened to have an appt on my son's birthday. When she left the office that day, she handed my a Dunkin Donut gift card. I thanked her, as it is not an uncommon thing for the "moms' to be" to give a small gift of thanks at the end of their pregnancies.

After she left I pulled it out of my pocket, where she had written " congratulations on ten years of wonderful parenting". My eyes instantly welled up and I called her to express to her just how much that meant to me. My son is now almost 16, and I still have that gift card holder and look at it from time to time. How often do we think of celebrating the parent(s) on their child's birthday?

To this day, it is honestly the best, most thoughtful and my favorite gift EVER.... OK.... aside from the frog toilet seat my son go me for Christmas when he was 5!!!!


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

154 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.
kldepp08 - Thanks for sharing. Oh yes.......hearing good things about our kids is always good, especially when that "goodness" is attributed to their upbringing. It just makes us smile all over......and get a little teary eyed.

NutmeggeRN, BSN

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Specializes in kids. Has 40 years experience.

Nothing I work in a school and it is also teacher appreciation week.....oh well, I heard from college friends and co workers and parents of some of my kids here at school.


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A nurse isn't someone who takes life for granted, a nurse begs God to grant life for a patient while lay ill or even on their death bed making them comfortable and praying for peace! A nurse is someone who cares more for a patients' ever so little needs waiting for that perfect payment in return of a smile or a tear of praise over their own needs! I praise and am grateful for all nurses out there in the world! I too am a nurse that had a nurse care for me today!

Happy Nurses Week to all nurses out there seeing this!

Sent from my iPhone using


7 Posts

School nurse here, best gift came from one of my students who hugged me and said, "It feels like home when you fix me".

I have a quote hanging in my office (don't know the author) that sums up nurses everywhere: "It's not about Band-Aids anymore! You may not be able to measure what we do, but take us away and you'll notice the difference"

FranEMTnurse, CNA, LPN, EMT-I

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Specializes in LTC, CPR instructor, First aid instructor.. Has 26 years experience.

As a former school bus driver and EMT, I have cleaned up vomit, stopped bloody noses, and even bandaged a head wound along with getting my passengers of all ages to their destinations safely.My rewards there were many gifts with 2 being cups that say; Änyone can drive a school bus, but it takes someone special to be a good school bus driver" As a nurses aide, I started a mens club and received a jewelry box made from a wooden cigar box and covered with tiny tiles, a pocket New Testament from the family of a lady with advanced breast cancer, have helped insert foley catheters, dressed numerous wounds, have comforted oh so many people who needed it, entertained the elderly by putting on plays with a co-worker, helped write a monthly newspaper and included two people every time via poetry titled; "Life Begins at 80", cleaned countless bodies, packaged bodies for the funeral home, held hands, assisted with dressing, changed numerous beds, passed out meds, and when I became a nurse, I assisted a stroke patient with walking and eating (she couldn't swallow without being assisted with holding her head forward) Her family was so grateful. Then I got sick and became a patient myself. But oh how I miss helping others.

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NotReady4PrimeTime, RN

16 Articles; 7,358 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology. Has 25 years experience.

Here in Canada we have Nurses' WEEK. Our hospital has what they refer to as a nurses' appreciation tea, but it's open to anyone with an ID badge, so really... And it's punch and cookies, for an hour or two, on a day shift. The administration sent out a vaguely patronizing email thanking us for our excellent work, but included the caveat that they really shouldn't single out just nurses because we're all one big happy family so they've kind of morphed Nurses' Week into Let's Celebrate Everybody Who Works Here Week. Our manager brought doughnuts and muffins this morning for all the staff.

Our union local usually has small gifts for each of us. One year they gave us personalized cutlery to carry in our lunch bags. They were so popular that the respiratory therapists took a bunch and there weren't enough for the nurses. As of this moment we haven't seen this year's offering.

Personal thanks and little tokens mean more anyway. I have a shelf in my office at home where I put the thank you cards I've received over the years. One gift that really took me by surprise came from a mom that I had spent some time with. Her child had been admitted with bronchiolitis and had been pretty sick. The mom reminded me a lot of one of my daughters, the one who catastrophizes everything. When she started ramping up I found myself talking to her in the same way I would talk to DD. A little tough Mom act that worked miracles! Just before her boy was ready for discharge from the PICU she came to me to unburden herself because she was quite worried about him. He had been difficult to sedate while on the ventilator and now he wasn't waking up. He'd had a CT head that was normal and she was terrified that he had some life-long brain injury that didn't show on the scan. I thought about it for a few minutes, then did a chart review. This little half-Asian baby had been given 480 mg/kg of chloral hydrate over the preceding 4 days and was essentially drunk - chloral hydrate is metabolized on first pass to ethyl alcohol, then further metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase. Asians and Inuit have a relative deficiency of this enzyme and should only be given small doses at wide intervals. When I explained all of this to her and reassured her that he'd wake up sooner or later and be just fine, she nearly wept. The next day he was transferred to the peds ward and I was on the night shift. I came in and there, at the desk was a package with my name on it. This mom had gone out and bought me a travel mug that she'd had his photo printed on and a lovely message thanking me for taking such good care of them both. It sits on my shelf right next to the card.


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

154 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

I agree with you Janfrn. Those individual thank yous like the mug mean so much more than the cutlery, teas, etc. That mom put a lot of thought behind that gift.