StoneSprings Hospital | Tree Planting 3

Pictured from left, chief nursing officer Amy Paratore and registered nurses Becky Morrill and Kacie Barton outside of StoneSprings Hospital Center on May 5.

Nurses are hurting.

A survey by Mental Health America last year found that among the 1,119 health care workers who participated, at least 75 percent reported experiencing anxiety, exhaustion, burnout or were overwhelmed.

This isn’t just an untenable situation, it’s unsustainable. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing estimates a shortage of nurses at a time when the aging baby boomer population is in increasing need of more health care services.

While National Nurses Week may have wrapped up on Wednesday, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank the legions of nurses who, despite shouldering an outsize portion of the burden created by the pandemic, keep showing up for work, day in and day out.

Nurses take care of us when we’re either seriously ill or injured. It’s nurses whom we entrust to care for a newborn in those first few minutes and hours after birth.

They also hold the hand of so many dying COVID patients — patients who would otherwise be alone during their final moments of life because family can’t be in an intensive care unit.

That our health care system didn’t completely crumble during this protracted struggle against the coronavirus is in no small part because nurses did the heavy lifting.

The enduring trauma nurses experience has come at a cost.

The MHA survey found that 45 percent of nurses reported that they didn’t feel like they had adequate emotional support during the pandemic. Further, 67 percent of all nurse practitioners reported that they’ve cried at work in the past year.

So, the question we should all be asking is this: What can we do to support nurses and, more broadly, health care professionals in general?

This week, Times-Mirror reporter Nathaniel Cline wrote about a tree being planted at StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles to honor both the patients lost to COVID-19 and the nurses that risk exposure to treat them.

It’s a lovely gesture, but what can the rest of us do to support nurses?

The answer is simple: Take care of yourself and others the best you can so our overworked, underpaid nurses don’t have to. One simple way you can do that during the pandemic is getting vaccinated.

As we slowly emerge from a period marked by isolation, restrictive protocols and loss, let’s pay tribute to the people whose enduring dedication to their profession has a profound effect on so many lives.

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