May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, and with face masks and social-distancing protocols in place, the traditional Blessing of the Hands kick-off event at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital looked a little different this year. However, the sentiments were the same.
“You all are amazing,” said GLWACH Commander Col. Kimberlie Biever. “Thank you for what you do each and every day to take care of our patients, our families, our Soldiers, our retirees, and thank you for taking care of each other. I am so very proud to be a nurse, and so very proud to part of this dedicated and resilient group of professionals.”
The ceremony – which includes anointing each nurse’s hands with oil – is performed each year at GLWACH and other military treatment facilities around the world, said GLWACH Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew Ailstock. He explained the blessing.
“For thousands of years people have used oil for anointing,” Ailstock said. “Anointing, that fancy word, it just means to be set apart. Oil was used and is still used today to signify God’s special calling on the lives of His people; to set them apart for his special task, and also to serve as a reminder to us of the sacredness of that calling.”
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, said the ritual recognizes the fact that so much of any nurse’s time is spent caring for others – “this moment is just for you.”
“The ritual of blessing your hands, the vessels by which you provide care, is meant to honor you as you provide support for everyone else,” Martin said.
Martin said nurses’ crucial role as medical care providers has been magnified recently.
“You embody this year’s nurses’ theme: lead, innovate, excel,” Martin said. “When the pandemic spread, your work priorities and schedules were upended without much notice. Instantly, outpatient nurses working dayshift became inpatient nurses working 12-hour shifts. Many of you trained and learned a whole new style of nursing that was not your specialty… You did it quickly, skillfully and selflessly in preparation for a COVID-19 emergency we hope never comes.”
The American Nursing Association is celebrating nursing for the entire month of May. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, the nurse famous for providing care and comfort to British soldiers during the Crimean War, and who helped revolutionize medicine with her strict approach to hygiene, sanitation and patient care.
“She turned nursing into the valued profession we know today,” Martin added. “Your crucial role as medical care providers has been magnified by this COVID pandemic.”
(Editor’s note: The article was provided by John Brooks, GLWACH Marketing and Public Affairs Officer.)