Greetings from Washington DC! I can't think of a more fitting place to be during the week that we celebrate the profession of nursing - National Nurses Week. I have visited Washington DC at least 25 times in my life and except for my first few visits, I don't believe I have ever missed the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Women's Memorial on the National Mall. If you have never added this to your list of places to visit when you are in DC, make sure to put it high on your list.
Located just across from the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, this memorial was erected to celebrate the 265,000 women who served in Vietnam, nearly all of them nurses. To me, the memorial is more than just a nod to our brave military nurses– it is a fitting memorial to our profession overall.
The memorial is composed of four figures. One is an injured soldier, his eyes covered with a bandage. The bandage obscures his true identify, allowing him to represent any soldier or patient that a nurse may care for. The injured soldier is cradled in the arms of a nurse, who looks down at him with a look of confidence and determination in her face. She holds her hand against his chest, perhaps to cover a wound? To me, this figure represents the scientific side of what we do as nurses. We are asked to provide competent care for our patients and this nurse is doing so without hesitation.
A second nurse stands next to the first nurse, her hand resting on the first nurses shoulder. The second nurse seems to be giving the first nurse assurance that she is there to support her. The second nurse is staring heavenward? It is almost like she hears the sounds of incoming helicopters bringing in more patients. To me, she represents both the collegiality of nurses as well as the fact that we are always asked to stand ready, to be available for whomever needs us next.
The third nurse kneels. She holds a helmet in her hand. Pain is etched in her face. To me, she represents the caring side of nursing. She seems to be mourning the loss of her patient to whom the helmet belonged. But aside from the pain she feels for her patient, one can also sense the personal pain she bears having to work with human suffering every day.
These are, of course, my interpretations. The designer of the sculpture (Glenna Goodacre) never shared the meaning of what the characters she created were meant to represent, leaving us to individually interpret them.
But this week, as we reflect on what it means to be a nurse, I ask you to consider the nurses so prominently placed on our National mall and what they represent. Thank you for being competent and literally saving lives every time you go to work. Thanks for the collegiality you show to your fellow nurses and for your willingness to stand ready to care for others, often at the expense of your own family and your own personal life. And thank you for the compassion you freely give to your patients and their loved ones every time you go to work. May this week that celebrates our profession be a week of healing and rejuvenation for you.
From all of us at Solheim Enterprises, thank you for all you do. Please do something special for yourself to celebrate the amazing profession you belong to!
- Jeff Solheim MSN RN CEN TCRN CFRN FAEN FAAN