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Courtesy of Metro Creative

National Nurses Day is celebrated annually May 6.

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Rhonda Barnes wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who became a nurse after graduating from Washington Hospital’s nursing school.

She did just that and has enjoyed a long, and successful professional career that now has her in a position as a registered nurse case management/mental health liaison.

Being a nurse is not just a job for Barnes, it is a passion and a commitment to helping people get well and feel better.

“In the emergency room setting, which is where I was for a long while, you see all different kinds of people with varying issues,” Barnes said. “You want to help them and it’s my nature to want to help and I realize when they come to the ER, that most are in discomfort.”

Barnes, of Washington and an employee of the Washington Health System, is one of many nurses who will be celebrated Thursday as part of National Nurses Day.

According to www.nationaldaycalendar.com, National Nurses Day is observed annually May 6. On this day, awareness is raised of all nurse contributions and commitments and the vital role nurses play in society is acknowledged. The day is also the first day of National Nurses Week and is sometimes known as National RN Recognition Day.

National Nurses Week, which ends May 12, commemorates the birthday of Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820 – August 13, 1910), who is a celebrated English, social reformer, statistician and the founder of modern nursing. She became well-known while taking care of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Nightingale was dubbed “The Lady with the Lamp” because of her habit of making rounds at night.

To celebrate nurses around the world, it is suggested to recognize their dedication and commitment to their patients and profession. To honor them, tell someone about the excellent care received from a nurse, or follow the instructions they give, especially follow up care. Ask questions, so they know you need more information. Give nurses you know a shout out and thank them for their hard work, especially during these challenging times.

The perception of nurses and the jobs they do has changed in the past 13-½ months because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“I think there is more of a (positive) awareness,” Barnes said. “People are aware of what nursing involves. There’s still a long way to go. We try to have empathy and work toward getting a patient past their issue or issues.”

Kristie Caterino of Monessen, who works for Allegheny Health Network, has realized a positive change in the perception of nurses and attitude toward them.

“Patients are more appreciative, talking to us and appreciating what we try to do for them,” Caterino said. “(In the past), we got yelled at a lot. We are typically the first health-care worker a patient sees, and in the past the one of took the heat or criticism.

“Often the nurse is first person a patient sees, and they see them throughout the day. We used to take the brunt of frustration. Now, I think more patients look at nurses as companions in helping them get past their illness and issues. It can be a hard, mentally exhausting job. Some days are better than others. But you always remember you treat a patient as you would want a family member treated in that situation. As tough as it can be, there are rewards as well seeing people feel better.”

Barnes added the early struggle during the pandemic was getting people to trust going to the hospital for care because people were afraid to possibly expose themselves while seeking help from the hospital.

That has changed over the past year, as has the type of illness or problems people are coming to the hospitals and emergency rooms for help.

“You are used to the acute issues; heart, stroke, diabetes, but we are seeing things that is a whole separate part of nursing,” Barnes said. “We are seeing people with mental issues and concerns. There are more kids. It’s tough because there aren’t the resources to do more. It’s difficult to get people placed.

“I love my profession. It means a lot to go to a job every day that you can help someone get past an issue and make them happy.”

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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