Our Nurses: the best-kept secret in Medicine today
They are unsung heroes, longing for fair recognition from society. Health institutions in the U.S. are yet to fully value and proportionally compensate these brave women and men who work in the trenches of the health industry in America, where today they happen to be needed the most.
I didn’t know that one of my favorite American authors, Mr. Walt Whitman, who died across the Delaware River, in the neighboring city of Camden, had been, in addition to a great writer, a nurse by profession.
America’s greatest poet, the man who gave the U.S. English a music it was missing until he crafted “Leaves of Grass,” was just yet another health care provider present in the trenches of the American Civil War, taking care of the wounded, the maimed— troubling himself, one on one, for these brave soldiers dying in the battlefields of the biggest confrontation of armed men in American history. Gettysburg alone, here in Pennsylvania, less than 150 miles from Philadelphia, left more than 50,000 men dead after three days of battle, more than the number of U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam in the span of 10 years one hundred years later.
The dignified deans of the Schools of Nursing from the region, gathered at the AL DÍA Round Table Conversation on the profession a couple of years ago, made me aware, as now you are, of the wrong assumptions we all make about one of the professions we all forget until we get sick and we need a doctor, and, above all, a nurse, to cure our infirmities.
I had the privilege to meet one who has lead the charge for the recognition of nurses in general, and nurses who happen to be Hispanic, as she is—the current dean of the number one School of Nursing in the world, based here in Philadelphia, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
She is Doctor Antonia Villarruel, co-founder of Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses decades ago, whom we were lucky to attract back to our city in 2014 to be the dean of the most prestigious nursing school in the nation.
Like Florence Nightingale, recognized worldwide today as the founder of the profession of nursing, Antonia, known to her friends as “Toni,” will one day be celebrated as one enlightened woman who worked the hardest to give fair recognition to the many women and men of Hispanic origin anxious to make a contribution to the quality of American health care through their yet to be valued profession of nursing.
They are all, in my partial view, the best kept secret in medicine today.