Round the clock shifts filled with sickness, sadness, and death. Showing up to work knowing they’re heading into something invisible yet dangerous for themselves and their families. Yet, they do it. Every day, they heal. They help. They serve.
The above could describe the roles of many essential workers at this time. In fact, 2020 should be titled Year of the Essential Worker.
Today, we honor one group out of the many: it’s National Nurses Day in the U.S. Today kicks off National Nurses Week, which is celebrated each year starting on May 6 and ending on the birthday of Florence Nightingale on May 12.
According to the World Health Organization, out of the 43.5 million health care workers worldwide, an estimated 20.7 million are nurses and midwives. In 2019, California’s Board of Registered Nursing reported having 559,824 licensees, and the Board for Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians reported a licensee population of 135,528, populations which may be larger now that the California Health Corps has called for volunteers.
These women and men are risking their lives to care for us. They work on battlefields under fire, in tents, prisons, helicopters, planes, ambulances, on sides of highways, in hospitals, in homes, and in other places none of us would go, let alone work in. They do this sometimes with little to no protection. But they still do it.
Could you do it? Would you?
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 6,100 health care workers in California have contracted the highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 disease during the crisis. More than 30 have died.
And our efforts to #StayatHome and #ShelterinPlace are not only helping flatten the curve: We are helping them save lives—sometimes their own.
So if you want to see the definition of brave, look at a nurse. And next time you see one, say thank you. You don’t have to wait until there’s a crisis.
READ AND WATCH: Meet some of the Bay Area nurses and hear their stories in “And Still They Show Up,” from the San Francisco Chronicle.
LOOK: At this April 17, 2020 photo essay from the Los Angeles Times titled, “Nurses are the coronavirus heroes. These photos show their life now.”