Selflessly willing to transform into any role necessary to ensure comfort, nurses provide an invaluable service across the globe, be it on the battlefield, at sea or ashore.
To pay tribute to the nurses’ dedication and contributions, Walter Reed Bethesda’s Nurses Association will host a week of festivities, May 6-11, celebrating National Nurses Week.
“We need to let all nurses know how much we appreciate them,” said Navy Capt. Wanda Richards, senior advisor to the medical center’s Nurse Association. Made up of nurses of all uniforms, the association currently includes about 30 members who aim to foster camaraderie among nurses, Richards said.
At the medical center, there are a total of about 1,500 nurses, according to Richards, who serves as assistant deputy commander for transition at Walter Reed Bethesda, noting it’s especially important to recognize the role these professionals play, not just during the week, but year round.
To kick off the weeklong celebration, a DAISY award ceremony will be held May 7. Created by the DAISY Foundation, the award recognizes hardworking nurses nationwide, throughout the year, and recipients are nominated by peers, patients and families. On May 8, there will be a senior leadership breakfast, including a Q-and-A session to allow nurses an opportunity to interact with a panel of senior leaders from areas throughout the command, and to learn about military and civilian career planning.
Keeping with annual Nurses Week traditions, a candlelight ceremony will be held Wednesday, May 9, in the Chapel. Led by Chaplain (Cmdr.) Kim Donohue and Capt. Donna Styles, from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the ceremony will “bless the hands” of nurses. Participants will pass and light candles while reciting prayers. The following day, for “Camaraderie Day,” nurses may wear specially designed T-shirts in their workspace, sold by Nurses Association committee members, to show their nurse pride. The T-shirts, which staff can purchase from any committee member, will help raise funds for the Nurses Association, Richards explained.
The week will culminate on Friday, May 11, with a cake-cutting ceremony, wishing the Navy Nurse Corps a Happy 104th Birthday. Later that evening, the association will hold a “Nurses Night Out” dance to support the organization.
A Navy nurse for 30 years, Richards believes the week’s events fit in with this year’s national Nurses Week theme, “Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Richards said. “We are advocating, we are leading, we are caring, because that’s what we do best.”
A nurse is one of the first people a patient encounters when they come in for care, Richards explained, and they’re not just caregivers they go to any means to ensure the patient and their family members’ needs are met.
“We’ll take care of whatever need you have at that particular time. If it’s combing your hair, we will comb your hair. If it’s holding your hand, we will sit and hold your hand. If it’s to sit and listen, we will sit and listen to you,” said Richards. “We are very flexible and we can do so much. [We’re] there to nurture everyone.”
Though being a nurse can be hard work, she noted it’s all worthwhile, she said, “to know you have done something for somebody.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Army Maj. Irene Reyes, an association member who works on the 4-Center ward, said she values being able to teach others: patients, family members, or other nurses.
“If what I taught, recommended, advised, [or] made a difference in their lives made their lives a little bit better, made their challenges a little more tolerable, or [helped them] come to a decision that to me is what I enjoy most about being a nurse,” said Reyes.
A nurse for 38 years, Reyes said the weeklong celebration shows appreciation for nurses, whose hands touch so many lives every day. It also honors the lives of those nurses who have sacrificed their lives in combat.
Lt. j.g. Jennifer Jones, who works in the Wound Care Clinic, also enjoys caring for patients and their loved ones and knowing she made an impact, “No matter how small.”
Jones, an association member, became a nurse three years ago because she wanted to help others, and her focus has remained, she said. “Being there not only for patients, but the families, that’s the best part of the job,” she explained.
Working in Internal Medicine, Lt. j.g. Charlene Reese said being around the ill and injured, and those mourning the loss of a loved one, can take an emotional toll at times. She noted that nurses are trained to help others cope with grief, and taught to debrief, amongst themselves, so they can continue putting their best foot forward. They also have each others’ support and camaraderie, which helps if they’re ever having a rough day, she added.
“We care about our patients as much as we care about each other, and that’s why I’ve always felt caring is what we do best,” Reese said.
Seeking to continue fostering nurse camaraderie, the Nurses Association welcomes any and all nurses to join, said Richards. The group meets monthly, and there is no annual fee.
“This is their association,” Richards said. “All we ask is to give your time. This is for us [nurses] to do things together.”