“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”
This week we have been celebrating National Nurses’ Week in the US. It was first celebrated in 1954, with May 6 designated as the day of celebration in 1982. The week ends on May 12th, the birthday of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Over the years I have gone from wondering what was the big deal about a lady walking around, holding a lamp, to admiring a woman who used statistics about death rates to argue with the British Government about the sanitation conditions in army hospitals! She founded a school of nursing where nurses were the teachers in recognition of the fact that nursing was a discipline separate from (though related to) medicine.
We’ve come a long way since those days, yet at times we wonder. Although we are celebrated and appreciated, trusted and admired, are we respected? In healthcare it sometimes seems as if we are the silent partner. In the media you always hear about the doctor who saved someone’s life, not so much the nurses that were there 24/7, monitoring, recognizing, caring for, intervening in; using skills, intelligence and compassion to meet and anticipate the needs of the vulnerable. We are not yet comfortable in asserting ourselves to demand and get respect for what we do.
But today’s nurse may be a little different from those of us who were trained in an earlier era. For a start, she may be a man! And that is wonderful, for men bring many talents to the profession, along with those that nursing requires. And these new generations (the Gen Xers and the Millenials) may also bring a fresh new attitude, one that looks for different solutions, that doesn’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, just because.
This week I participated in a Pinning Ceremony, that particular event that celebrates graduates of the nursing program. Unlike graduation, it is an intimate and sentimental event, one that reminds old nurses of their own ceremony, and welcomes new nurses into the honorable profession. The guest speaker spoke from her heart, with passion, about the importance of having a mission. She also advised the new nurses to “be owners, not renters” in the profession. This can be applied to many other professions. Many of us go through the motions in life, choosing jobs for the money earning potential, then being miserable every day, watching the clock, resenting every minute that we are at work, counting down till our days off. That simple analogy carried a loaded message.
Leading up to Mother’s Day, we are suffering with the mothers in Nigeria, who sent their girls off to gain an education, and now are waiting in pain, wondering if they will see their daughters again. Is this the 21st century? Did you know that there are more people being held in slavery today than ever before? We are secure in our own cocoons, unaware of the tragedies that exist just beyond our doors.
In the midst of the celebrations of mothers, of nurses, of teachers, of people that have an impact on the lives of others, let us try to be more aware of the strides that still have to be made, for everyone to enjoy the freedom that we have come to expect. And the way forward is through education. In the words of Malala Yousafzai: “if we remain silent then this will spread, this will happen more and more and more”. If a girl who was shot in the head for trying to get an education cannot be silenced, how can we stay on the sidelines? Sojourner Truth spoke the words quoted above, she was speaking on behalf of women, and in particular of women of African descent in 1851. We must find our voice, and refuse to permit evil to reign. If we continue to stand by in silence, we become co-conspirators in the crime.
This weekend as you remember and appreciate the mothers in your life, think of those who need so much more than flowers and sweet words. Pay attention to the actions of the politicians you choose, and see where they stand on women’s rights and violence against women. Do they support the right of a woman to obtain health and reproductive care? Do they care whether women are paid a fair wage?
Have a wonderful weekend Family! And celebrate all of the wonderful mothers, nurses and teachers in the world who work every day to make a difference. And in the midst of the good feelings spare a moment to think of those who are still struggling to make their voices heard.