By Lyonel Doherty

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There are real angels on this earth, and they are cleverly disguised as nurses.

They are there in our darkest times, during our worst pain and our loneliest moments. But we have to ask: who is there for them? 

As we celebrate National Nursing Week (May-8-14), we honour their daily sacrifices to improve our health care in the face of insurmountable challenges. If Florence Nightingale were alive today, she’d be so proud of our nurses for their unbending courage and dedication.

Nightingale was a British nurse born on May 12, 1820. She was affectionately known as the “lady with the lamp” in charge of nursing soldiers in Turkey during the Crimean War.

This year’s theme is “Our Nurses. Our Future,” which celebrates these brave young women and men on the front lines. How they got through COVID in one piece is a testament to their compassion and resilience, and they still managed to smile to comfort the sick and the dying. 

This writer recalls the extra Jello that the nurses gave him in one Ontario hospital where he spent a week recovering from an operation. These nurses were like a second mom to him, calming his fears and making him laugh through the pain. He missed them dearly when it came time to go home. Years later, when his father was dying of prostate cancer, these angels made his last few days a comforting journey to the end. He was an avid fisherman, and family members recall seeing him gesturing by reeling in a fish while he was sitting up in his hospice bed. That night he died. In peace and with dignity. And his family will never forget what those nurses did for him.

In honour of National Nursing Week, associations from across Canada have launched a social media campaign called #HeyNurse at to pay tribute to nurses by telling their stories.

On the Praise a Nurse Facebook page, many testimonies are published. For example, one person wrote:

“I definitely have the highest respect for nurses. My auntie is a nurse and I didn’t actually realize the hard work, dedication and extremely long hours she puts in to do a vital job that really is undervalued. Nurses definitely need to be given so much more recognition and it is clear that they do not have the respect they deserve.”

Laura Thomas, Registered Nurse and Patient Care Coordinator at Invermere District Hospital, said working in the Columbia Valley is busy, fun, and always interesting.

“We have such a skilled and talented group of healthcare professionals at the Invermere District Hospital and I believe this helps create a sense of comfort and support.”

Thomas added that the valley is such a beautiful place and full of activities that “allow many of us to have a healthy work-life balance.” 

Registered nurse Patricia A. McQuinn, president of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Nurses Group, said her certification in hospice care made her a better nurse. 

Susan Morris, RN, and president of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses, said certified nurses have an increased pride in their profession which has the potential to improve patient outcomes.

Registered nurse Laura McNulty, president of the National Association PeriAnesthesia Nurses of Canada, said being certified encourages her to keep current with best practices.

In 2021 there were 459,000 regulated nurses eligible to practise, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This included 312,382 registered nurses – a growth of 2.5 per cent from 2020, 7,400 nurse practitioners – a growth of 10.7 per cent from 2020, 132,886 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses – a growth of 1.6 per cent, and 6,337 registered psychiatric nurses – a growth of 3.6 per cent. LPNs are the youngest group of nurses with an average age of 41 years. In 2021, about 91 per cent of regulated nurses were female in Canada.

In all categories of regulated nurses, the percentage working in rural areas has declined between 2020 and 2021.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) continues to express concerns about a nursing shortage, which they report began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2018 analysis predicted a shortage of 117,600 nurses in Canada by 2030 (Scheffler & Arnold, 2018). A 2019 survey of nurses conducted by the CFNU with researchers from the University of Regina revealed that 83 per cent of nurses felt that their institution’s core health care staff was insufficient to meet patient needs.