A Tribute to Nurses, the Superheroes of Healthcare

Written by Cancer Sherpa founder Clare Matschullat


I got a text today of a black and white photo of three little girl cousins in white lace dresses and was asked by the sender to identify which one was her. I immediately knew that the smiling little girl with the pageboy haircut and big eyes on the far right was my nurse practitioner! Her question was followed by an explanation of which cousin was which and that one of them had passed away a couple of days ago after a long battle with breast cancer. I was not surprised when my nurse practitioner told me she and the third cousin were there with her during the last days of her life and when she passed.

If there is one thing I know about this nurse and all nurses, it is that nursing is not a profession. It is a calling. Please understand me; I do not use the word calling in a cute or trite way; I use it because caring for another human being from birth through death requires individuals who are both the fiercest and most forgiving among us. The brains, grit, and compassion necessary to complete a nurse’s clinical training hours, on top of nursing school, rival all the mental and physical discipline required to become any other type of first responder or military member.

There is nothing cute or trite about having to roll over a seriously ill patient twice your size to change the dressings on bedsores that cover most of their body. I vividly remember how hard we laughed the evening my best friend from high school called me to tell me how she had spent her clinical training hours for her nurse practitioner degree one day. She reported that, while I was blissfully entering clinical trial data in my shared research office, she had spent most of her day collecting and weighing human excrement, as that was one of the many ways patients were closely monitored in her training ward. Now, ask yourself, is what I have described above less grueling than training at a police or firefighter academy or boot camp? I think not.

Nurses are our very first and last patient advocates. They are the caregivers who make sure we take our first meal and double-check the dosage for our first medication, and they are who administer it and all other care we need and cannot provide for ourselves. So much of this is also true during mental and physical illness and injury and upon our death. The American healthcare system has forced nurses to be the checks and balances between their patients and every other type of medical intervention prescribed by various healthcare professionals to that patient. We should all be so grateful that such strong, smart, and humble people step up to do that every day when we are at our most vulnerable.

Healthcare could not and would not exist without nurses. Nurses, at every level, from nursing assistants to doctors of nursing philosophy, provide essential feedback on how well our nation’s healthcare system is healing and/or curing its patients. Without nurses, patient information and medical data would be patchy and sparse as physicians and other healthcare professionals do not spend the time and administer the care that nurses do. Never take a nurse for granted; they are the true keepers of our mental and physical well-being.

May is National Nurses Month, and while we’re taking this opportunity to honor all of the hard working nurses out there, it’s important we remember to be grateful for them every day.

We can help you find the right nurse to be your support system, or to help care for a loved one. Contact us to start your search today.