The Wilson Post

Opinion: If you are healthy today, thank a nurse

National Nurses Month is recognized each May by the American Nurses Association (ANA). There are more than four million registered nurses in America, and this month is a way to show appreciation and say “thank you” to this profession. 


This year, I will celebrate my 18th year of being a Registered Nurse. It is hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for our profession and the work of nurses day in and day out for the communities we serve.

My background as a bedside nurse includes working in robust emergency departments, a cardiac cath lab and interventional radiology. Midway through my career, I felt led to pursue nursing leadership to support nurses and be an advocate for the nursing profession and patients. I now serve as the chief nursing officer (CNO) at TriStar Summit Medical Center where my career started as a nursing technician in 2004 prior to graduating nursing school. 

Nurses Month has always been a time to celebrate the positive way our team members shine for the profession and for the care they provide. However, this year feels different as I reflect on the past few years in my own personal nursing journey, and more importantly, the nursing journey of all the nurses I serve each day as a CNO.

The ANA’s theme for Nurses Month this year is “You Make a Difference,” and it is an accurate description of what I have witnessed as nurses bravely led our communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many in our profession, the COVID-19 pandemic was our first global pandemic to work as a nurse, and it was certainly my first global pandemic to lead a nursing team through it. Just three short years ago, my world went from a robust, full hospital to a place of unknowns overnight. Our hospital didn’t stay this way for long as many nurses embraced resiliency and adapted to constant changes throughout these last few years to take the best care of our patients.

It is hard to put into words what I have witnessed as a CNO over these three years. Our nursing team has displayed resiliency, compassion, selflessness and grit.

Healthcare can be complex and challenging, but our nurses have been there providing compassionate connected care despite any challenges that come their way. I’ve been a witness to nurses holding the hand of a sick patient, washing the hair of a young, critically ill patient, being an advocate for patients when they didn’t have anyone, and bringing new life into the world in one department while supporting end of life in another department.

Our nurses have shown empathy by putting their needs aside to take the best care of our patients and also of each other. It is an honor to work alongside of them. 

Looking forward to where we are today, our nurses are still showing up and providing compassionate connected care each shift. It is important to note that we could not provide complete care to our patients without our support departments like respiratory therapy, case management, radiology, physical therapy, food and nutrition services, environmental services and pharmacy, to name a few.  Nursing is a team sport, and we are so thankful for those that join us to support the overall care of our patients.

We are also fortunate to work with nursing students through various colleges as they are our pipeline for our future. We aim to provide excellent clinical experiences for our nursing students and comprehensive nurse residency opportunities for them once they graduate.

For our current nurses, we offer career paths that invest in our colleagues and provide growth opportunities in specialty nursing, leadership training, education assistance and much more.

In closing, I want to say THANK YOU to all nurses who serve our community. Thank you for being there for our patients and making a difference in our community! It is an honor to support the TriStar Summit nursing team as their CNO. Happy Nurses Month. 

Heather Stafford, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC is the Chief Nursing Officer at TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage.