If you stop and think about it for a second, all of us have been touched by the caring hands of a nurse. From our earliest moments after birth, through our years in school, to any time we’ve had to visit a medical office, hospital, or clinic to seek treatment for something that ails us – it’s in these moments a nurse is always there to care for us and lift our spirits. This week is recognized as National Nurses Week, but 2020 is also the Year of the Nurse – apropos for a year defined by a pandemic – but also the year that marks 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale, who pioneered modern nursing. Now more than ever, it’s a time to recognize and give thanks to all the nurses who serve and work in our communities to care for us and provide us with healing comfort.
At Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc., we are blessed to have almost a quarter of our workforce comprised of nurses – 100-plus caring servants whose skillful hands and caring hearts deliver healing and hope to the most vulnerable among us. At our four clinical locations in and around San Antonio, we have nearly 20 nurses treating patients who traditionally lack access to quality health care. When our patients and clients visit one of our clinics, it’s the face of one of our nurses who provide the most care and attention as they navigate through the programs and services we offer. Many of the patients we serve in those clinics often have complex healthcare needs on top of struggling with poverty, food scarcity, and other issues that make prioritizing their health nearly impossible. Our clinical nurses have to be the shoulders for patients to lean on, hands to hold them steady when they are overwhelmed or scared, a confidant for life’s challenges, and cheerleaders to encourage them in making sometimes-hard choices to get healthy.
Moving outside our clinics and into our 74-county service area, we are fortunate to have 87 Wesley Nurses rooted in communities large and small across South Texas. The Wesley Nurse program was one of the first initiatives that Methodist Healthcare Ministries launched over 20 years ago, and it is our largest geographic outreach program. Wesley Nurses are registered nurses who practice faith-based, community nursing and are located in churches and communities. Wesley Nurses are trained to treat the mind, body, and spirit of patients they encounter, and they are embedded into the fabric of the communities they serve. Our nursing team embodies our mission of “Serving Humanity to Honor God” on a daily basis by going above and beyond to provide quality, compassionate care – especially now. In these difficult times, they have become catalysts for creative care that reaches past the physical distance caused by this pandemic. From the onset of the coronavirus, our clinical nursing team quickly pivoted to HIPAA-compliant virtual care solutions to ensure our patients and clients didn’t miss the care they need to stay healthy. At a time when operations at most businesses and medical practices have been affected, our Wesley Nurses sprang into action to organize community relief efforts necessary for people to survive amid this COVID-19 reality. From volunteering with food banks and organizing food distributions to spending hours driving through their communities delivering needed supplies, such as medicines or diapers to those with transportation challenges, they are working diligently to protect and improve the mental, physical, and spiritual health of the uninsured across South Texas.
Across our city and around the world, you can find a nurse hard at work in hospitals, medical offices, urgent care centers, schools, nursing homes, behavioral health centers, and more. Nurses are part of the engine that keeps our health care system moving forward. They are smart, creative, resourceful, compassionate, caring, and wise. We often encounter them when we are not feeling our best, yet they strive tirelessly to help us through every situation.
I had a job as a nursing assistant through college, which allowed me the chance to appreciate firsthand the work nurses give to their patients, and I saw how much compassion the job requires. The scale of the impact they have on patients and families is incredible, and I’ve been inspired by all the nurses I’ve worked with throughout my career in the health care industry and now, as president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries. During National Nurses Week and throughout 2020, I’d like to ask you to reach out to the nurses in your life and say, “thank you!” Whether it’s someone in your family or someone you encounter while accessing the health care system, please let them know how much they are appreciated. It’s the nurses in the world who are truly leading the way toward our recovery with their care and compassion.