Nursing - The Most Honored Profession

Deborah Chiaravalloti - 05/05/19

It’s Nurses Week and it’s not an exaggeration to say that nursing is the most honored profession in the United States. A Gallup poll shows that four out of five Americans (84%) rate the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as "very high" or "high". Nurses have received the Gallup poll’s highest rating every year for the past 20 years, except after 9/11 in 2001 when firefighters ranked highest on the list. Nurses are held to a higher standard and they meet and exceed that every day.

Some believe that nursing was formalized as a profession in 1854 when Florence Nightingale took nurses to treat British soldiers fighting in the Crimea. However, here in the United States, nursing was organized as a profession 56 years earlier, in 1798. A New York physician, Dr. Valentine Seaman, organized an early course of lectures for nurses who cared for maternity patients. The program became the Nurse Society of Philadelphia (also, referred to as the Nurse Charity of Philadelphia) and trained women to care for mothers during childbirth and postpartum. 

When the Civil War broke out, 20,000 men and women served as nurses. They had proven the value and care that nurses provide, and training programs began to crop up to formalize their training. One of the earliest, the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia, opened in 1861.

Then the influence of Florence Nightingale sailed across the Atlantic and schools opened under her influence. The first three were all based on Nightingale’s ideas about nursing:

  1. New York Training School at Bellevue Hospital
  2. Connecticut Training School at the State Hospital (later renamed New Haven Hospital
  3. Boston Training School at Massachusetts General Hospital

For more than 220 years nurses have been caring for and healing generations of Americans. It is a profession that never steps away from the front lines and is always one of the first to respond to pain and suffering. Reader’s Digest highlighted several examples:

  • A major blizzard in January 2016 kept most New Yorkers safely in their homes, but one woman braved the elements. Knowing her Hebrew Home patients might need her, nurse Chantelle Diabate walked about two miles in the snow to get to the Bronx nursing home. She was the only nurse to report there that day, so she and other staff members worked double shifts to cover. “My job is really humbling because you realize you could be a patient…at some point you’re going to have to depend on somebody.”
  • Julie Stroyne Nixon and her new husband, Andrew Nixon, were glowing after their wedding. The two were heading to their hotel from the reception when they heard yelling. People were calling for a doctor, so Julie rushed over. A woman on the bench was barely breathing and didn’t have a pulse. Luckily, Julie was a nurse at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. She performed CPR—still in her wedding gown—until the woman regained consciousness.

Today, there are nearly three million nurses in the United States. They work in numerous care settings ranging from hospitals and physician’s offices to homes and skilled nursing facilities. They provide endless hours of comfort to those in pain and solace to those in traumatic circumstances. They seem to have endless powers of persuasion, as illustrated in this story published by

“There are often moments when blood counts bottom out, patients lose their appetite, their strength, and can no longer muster up the energy to fight…but there is always a way.

After days of a patient lying in bed, refusing to move or walk, my coworker had an idea that only a pediatric nurse is capable of. She decided this patient would not do what seemed like work but might do what seemed like play.

After arming him with an awesome Nerf gun and taping a huge bullseye target on her back, she taunted him to hit the target. As he shot, she stepped away...and then stepped further. 

Before he knew it, he was chasing her through our hallways at full speed, color rushing back into his pale face and a smile spreading ear to ear. Oddly enough, daily walks were never an issue again for this particular patient.” 

If you are a nurse, thank you. The quotes below summarize what your patients and the general public know to be true about your skill, compassion and power to heal and comfort:

“Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes.” Author unknown

“Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon.” Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General (unverified)

“The trained nurse has become one of the great blessings of humanity, taking a place beside the physician and the priest, and not inferior to either in her mission.” William Osler, M.D., “Nurse and Patient,” 1897 

It’s Nurses Week! Thank you for all you do every day.