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From One Nurse to Another: History Makes Heroes, Then and Now

Thank you to nurse heroes

To celebrate  Nurses Week, this series, “From One Nurse to Another” shares stories from our very own front-line heroes at CipherHealth — our stellar clinical team — about what they’ve seen in the field and what their fellow nurses mean to them. Here, our VP of Clinical Services, Mariane Carna, MSN, MBA, RN, provides a look at nurse heroes through history, leading up to those who are currently facing adversity and unsafe conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nursing is a vocation involving a level of dedication and selflessness in the direst of circumstances. The Coronavirus is just the latest in a history of devastating disasters where nurses have been called upon to display extraordinary courage.

Where it Began

Nursing in America began when Linda Richards became the first American-trained nurse to graduate from the New England Hospital for Women and Children’s nurse training school in 1873. Ms. Richards paved the way for countless men and women who continue to build on the inspiring tradition she cultivated. That same year, Florence Nightingale established the first nursing school in the United States which opened at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and employed Linda Richards as a superintendent. Along with these two innovative pioneers, the first trained African American nurse was May Eliza Mahoney, who graduated from the New England school in 1879. These women were the true heroes of their time, and their legacies continue to inspire us every day.

Nurse heroes continue to emerge throughout history in times of war, devastating storms, and pandemics as critical “first responders”. We take for granted in ordinary times that nurses are in our hospitals, the military, doctors’ offices, as well as schools and nursing homes. It is assumed that regardless of the situation, a nurse will stand in concert with a physician in providing care for patients they are attending. Nurses are not only responsible for the physical well-being of a patient but are often called upon to tend to their emotional well-being as well. There are also those times when the nurse assumes the role of a surrogate family member if the patient has no one to hear and feel their concerns, which is especially true now in times of limited or no visitation policies resulting from COVID-19.

Nursing is A Calling

During the devastating events of September 11, 2001, when the United States was attacked, nurses were front and center taking care of critically injured and severely burned victims. They were dispatched to the site where they witnessed horrific carnage which has left lasting emotional scars to many of them. This event forever changed the lives of many first responders, myself included. Witnessing that moment in history was devastating and, like today, underscores the value of people who put themselves in harm’s way to help others at the expense of their own emotional and physical well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also calling on nurses, in some cases, to perform their duties without the proper protective gear needed to keep them safe in a highly contagious environment. Yet nurses continue to go to work and care for the sickest of patients in conditions that can be unsafe —  forced to create makeshift masks and scrubs and employ untested treatments in order to mitigate the effects of the virus. Nurses have lived under quarantine, leaving their own families for days or weeks, in order fulfill their obligation to those critically ill individuals.

Why do they do it? Because their work is a calling to help the lives of others.

A Well-Earned Salute

As we watch the news each day, we are inspired by these men and women for their tenacity in the face of adversity and unsafe conditions The accolades are rightfully showered on them, but the need to provide them with protective gear and safe working conditions remains an issue and has been a common thread we’ve seen throughout history. The dedication of these professionals was demonstrated yet again when the Governor of New York asked for volunteers with medical backgrounds to come out of retirement and assist in the pandemic. Twenty thousand medical professionals responded, many of them nurses. It is this dedication to their profession that leaves us with our deepest respect and gratitude for these heroes.

During Nurses Week, we honor their achievements and constant vigilance in exercising their talents and professionalism.


See all of the tributes from the CipherHealth clinical team in honor of Nurses Week, “From One Nurse to Another”.


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