Legacy of Nurses: Hands that Hold Hope

This article on nurses is the first in a new series called Legacy of Professions, where we look behind the scenes and share our heartfelt appreciation for the unsung heroes out there. 

A nurse assists a woman at a check-upNurses aid people at all stages of life

In a hospital full of chalky pills, purring machines, and squeaky floors, it’s almost impossible to be comfortable. Then, in walks the nurse with a reassuring smile, patience, and an ability to soothe patients and their families with just a few words. When it comes to medical care, nurses aren’t always given the credit they deserve. When talking about hospitals, most people say how great doctors are, how nice the rooms are, and how advanced the technology is.

Nurses are the fist that holds everything together. Their compassion is indefinable and incomparable. They are often the quiet resolve for a person or a family coping with illness. Without a set routine, it is impossible for a nurse to “autopilot” through the day. Some days are more difficult than others, and when a nurse puts on scrubs and heads out to work, there is no way to tell what the day will bring. One constant thing about nurses is the beauty of the service they provide for others who are suffering, the comfort they provide to those in pain.

Death is something that nurses have to become accustomed to quickly. It is often a daily occurrence at their job. Although it isn’t easy, they have the ability to remain strong and gentle, even in the most trying of times. Hope goes a long way in this field of work.

Tilda Shalof’s book, A Nurse’s Story, recalls the strength and hope that nurses provide for their patients, every day. “If you focus on the things that are at the heart of nursing— comfort, dignity, nourishment, promoting well-being— you’ll find that you’ll alleviate some of the suffering, and you’ll always have hope.”[1] Shalof describes how hopelessness can devastate a suffering patient, and how it is the duty of the nurse staff to help their patients maintain a positive outlook. “It is hopeless if you see death as a failure, if you see death as the most possible outcome. Many doctors see death as a personal failure, but nurses have the chance to make a valuable contribution in these cases. We can do everything we are able to do to save a patient, but then we have to let go and know our limitations. . . . However I believe that there is always something to hope for.”

Nurses keep their own heads up in order to lead others around them through illnesses and injuries that could result in death. They are advocates for hope in fragile situations. They build relationships with patients and their families; relationships that are just as important as medications or physical care. Shalof writes, “When nurses construct a relationship with patients or their families, they are rescuing patients from social isolation, terror, or the stigma of illness or helping family members cope with their loved ones’ illnesses.”

Nurses deserve the thanks of all patients and hospital visitors, whether facing a mortal situation or not. Nurses’ ability to comfort, to give hope, and to carry the burdens of people they may have never met before, contributes to a legacy greater than themselves as individuals.

Create an Everlasting Footprint for any individual who has made a difference in your life, no matter his or her profession.


About Liz Grear

Liz Greer, MFA, teaches creative writing, tutors students, and dabbles in ballroom dancing, book binding, paper making, and playing hopscotch between Chicago and New Jersey. She dreams of running a writing workshop in a prison, because she believes words can change things. Maybe not all things. But enough things.

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