Nurses critical to VA health system

May 12, 2011

Nurses are the ones who prepare patients for procedures. They comfort nervous patients, reassuring them that everything is going to be alright. They work long hours on their feet, often performing an array of functions that people don't realize, don't understand, or prefer not to do, and they do it tirelessly with compassion. Nurses comprise the nation's largest health care profession, and here at the VA Maryland Health Care System, the nursing service is the largest health care service in the system, a compassionate backbone of veterans' health care.

National Nurses Week (May 6-11) honors the dedicated men and women, who we at the VA Maryland Health Care System consider crucial to our mission of serving veterans. We at the VA Maryland Health Care System want to thank our nurses on whom we rely to set the highest clinical standards. Their excellence and dedication has helped make the VA a leader in health care, patient safety and research.

This year's theme of National Nurses Week 2011 is "Nurses: Trusted to Care." The week is devoted to highlighting the diverse ways in which registered nurses work to improve health care. From bedside nursing in hospitals and long-term care facilities to the halls of research institutions, state legislatures and Congress, the depth and breadth of the nursing profession meets the expanding health care needs of the nation in general and of veterans in particular. The VA is the nation's largest single employer of nurses who dedicate themselves to saving and maintaining the lives of our veterans.

I'm so proud to be associated with the 700 registered nurses, the 70 licensed practical nurses and the more than 200 nursing assistant/health technicians who serve our veterans at the VA Maryland Health Care System. Our patients rely on their compassion and care. Nurses may well be the nation's unsung health care heroes, working tirelessly, their passion coming from the VA's mission, caring for, saving and maintaining the lives of our veterans.

Dennis H. Smith, Baltimore

The writer is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

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