Nurses as everyday heroes; UCCS faculty further narrative of unrecognized selfless service

Navy nurse Madge Overstreet
Navy nurse Madge Overstreet of Tallahassee, Florida, waves a straw hat on Okinawa during World War II. Photo from U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The stories of nurses who often go beyond their duties to care for patients every day were compiled by UCCS and Army nursing faculty in “Everyday heroes: Nurses working quietly behind the scenes saving lives and protecting their patients” in the Journal of Health and Human Experience.

Written by Deborah Kenny, associate professor of nursing; Helen Graham, assistant professor of nursing; and Angela Simmons, dean of the School of Nursing Science at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School; the three found numerous accounts in books, newspapers and journals, conducted interviews, about how often nurses put the care of their patients ahead of their own needs. They found that the dedication crosses international borders and is the same in religious, military or civilian health care environments.

World War II nurses
Nurses in the Pacific World War II

“We hear so many stories of how nurses go above and beyond to care for the ill and injured, yet they do not seek recognition for their work,” Kenny said. “As we got into writing this paper, we were struck with the fact that most nurses are quite selfless in their work and, in fact downplay it. This wound up being quite inspiring to us in seeing the lengths nurses will often go to in ensuring care at all levels to those who need it.”

The researchers focused their research on heroism, and specifically the definition that included altruism as opposed to risk-taking. The existing research on heroism showed a gap in health care providers as heroes, but the team found several examples that highlighted the efforts of nurses to care for patients.

“Though nursing is already one of the most trusted professions, we also hope this paper can provide a more public understanding of just what nurses in many contexts do and have done across time and around the world for their patients,” Kenny said.

The full article, which includes multiple stories of nurses, can be found in the Fall 2018 edition of the Journal of Health and Human Experience.

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