Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

Believing nursing to be her divine purpose, a young British woman set out to reform healthcare in the 1800s — influencing the quality of care we take for granted in modern times.

Florence Nightingale changed nursing forever during the Crimean War in 1854, leading a group of nurses into horrid and insanitary conditions. She witnessed more soldiers dying from infectious diseases, such as typhoid and cholera, than from battlefield injuries. Her work to ensure sanitation, create detailed organization and offer basic human compassion reduced the war hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.

Soldiers called her “the Angel of the Crimea.”

Mee Memorial Healthcare System joins the rest of the world in celebrating National Nurses Week. This annual celebration of our own angels begins May 6 and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale.

This month also brings National Hospital Week, an opportunity to highlight our hospitals, health systems and healthcare workers and the innovative ways they continue to support community needs, especially during the pandemic.

So, while there has been much to mourn over the past 14 months, we take time to acknowledge the so many selfless, hardworking souls who show such dedication, resilience and compassion each day.

At Mee Memorial Healthcare System, we are proud to provide “healthcare with heart.” And leading those efforts on the front lines are our amazing nurses, local men and women who sacrifice so much for the good of the community.

What is National Nurses Week?

Back in 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent a proposal to then President Dwight Eisenhower to create an official day to honor nurses.

Amazingly, it took 20 years before President Richard Nixon finally acknowledged the nursing profession by setting aside a day in February. In 1978, New Jersey’s governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as National Nurses Day. In 1981, the American Nurses Association helped make it official and extend the celebration a full week into Nightingale’s birthday.

It’s an annual, worldwide celebration of nurses for the selfless work they do for others. The week allows people the chance to acknowledge the nurses in their lives. It also provides an opportunity to thank nurses within the industry as a whole for the work they’ve done.

Working during trying times

During Covid-19, nurses have worked tirelessly (and with great risk) to ensure proper healthcare. The pandemic has taken a toll on nurses, both mentally and physically. Tears were shed. Morale was tested. But they continued to show up for work to make a difference. What an amazing, humbling experience to witness.

That’s why it’s so important to use Nurses Week to reach out and celebrate the nurses around you and throughout the world. It’s a time to show them how much we care about them!

The ongoing pandemic has made celebrating nurses more complicated. For now you will have to save your hugs for another day. However, there are other ways to say thank you. If you have felt the loving hand of a nurse, do something meaningful (and perhaps old-fashioned) by handwriting a thank you note and sending it their way via Mee Memorial.

Or, if you prefer video, create a thoughtful or fun video to share with a nurse who has touched your family. Post it on social media and tag the hospital. (That’s something “viral” we can all support!)

If you want to go to greater lengths, perhaps the answer lies in the Mee Memorial Rose Garden, planted more than 50 years ago by a local man wanting to honor his wife in long-term care.

The Mee Memorial Hospital Foundation tends the garden of heirloom roses, offering local residents the same unique opportunity to honor a loved one or celebrate a special occasion. With funds supporting the foundation, anyone may purchase a rose bush, a climbing rose, a paving brick or an iron bench located around the walking trail.

These donations represent a “forever purchase,” meaning the person’s name will never be removed from the garden. People may hand-select a rose bush among the 150 still available, based on color or location.

To receive more information about the Memorial Rose Garden, call 831-385-7233 or email [email protected].

Surprise a nurse in your life

If there is a special nurse in your life, perhaps a friend, family member or neighbor, there are easy ways to say thanks.

Because nurses are constantly washing and sanitizing their hands (both pre-Covid-19 and long after), this can lead to dry, cracked and irritated skin. Drop off a gift of hand lotion (unscented, unless you know a preferred smell), balm or healing cream. Gift cards work just as well.

Maybe you can chip in and help with essential errands. Nurses, and all healthcare workers, work long shifts. They may get off work too late to pick up needed food, or may not feel up to it during a day off. Be their personal shopper. Have them text you a list of what they need — and leave the goodies outside their door. Have you noticed their yard needs tending? Cut their grass or pull their weeds without even asking. What a surprise upon witnessing such love.

It’s no secret that many nurses turn to caffeine to get through long shifts. How about a gift card for their favorite coffee place, or a mug with an accompanying bag of coffee. You can even send a gift card through email.

Finally, because nurses tend to spend much time on their feet, compression socks make a great gift. They can make such a difference in soothing aches and preventing swelling. It’s a gift that truly keeps on giving.

National Hospital Week

While our nurses deserve all of this love and support, the entire healthcare team works together so effortlessly to provide quality care to South Monterey County. I couldn’t be prouder.

After National Nurses Week, we turn our celebration to Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12 and the beginning of National Hospital Week.

Sponsored by the American Hospital Association, the week thanks all of the dedicated individuals — nurses, physicians, therapists, technicians, volunteers, administrators and so many more — for their combined efforts in saving and improving lives.

I am proud to say that our hospital staff members put patients first by training to the highest standards and delivering “healthcare with heart.”

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CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System


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