February is Black History Month and we want to acknowledge the rich tradition of Black nurses in America. We are pleased to honor a few of the most well-known Black nurses who fought social injustice and deserve to be remembered.
We’re sure there were many Black nurses taking care of loved ones at home. Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first professional black nurse. She was born in Boston on May 7, 1845 and began her nursing career at the age of 18 by working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. At age 33, she was accepted into their nursing school. Not only was she the only Black nurse, their nursing school was the first professional nursing program in the country.
After being one of only four to graduate from the original class of 42, she registered as a private-duty nurse. Her professionalism made its mark early on. Frequently, nurses during that time were given domestic tasks as well as nursing duties. Ms. Mahoney refused to eat her meals with household staff. Her reputation quickly grew and made her in high demand across the country.
Following this beginning, Mabel Keaton Staupers overcame the frustrations of segregated nursing programs and used her position as a nurse to fight for racial equality in addition to her nursing duties. She quickly became a leader for the cause and is credited for being a major factor in the breakdown of segregation in the U.S. and the nursing profession.
Betty Smith Williams’ childhood in South Bend, Indiana left her with a lasting impression that activism did make a difference. She took this belief with her into her nursing career. She began by being the first black person to graduate from Cleveland, Ohio’s France Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Impressively, she was also the first black person to teach at a college or university in California. Her most lasting achievement, however, may be the founding of the National Black Nurses Association.
From the beginning of her career Estelle Massey Osborne was a champion of black nurses. She was the first black woman to earn a master’s degree in nursing. As a consultant for the National Nursing Council for War Services, Ms. Osborne was instrumental in getting the color ban lifted for nurses in the U.S. Army and Navy. Her work also doubled the number of nursing schools that would accept black students. In 1945, she became the first black member of New York University’s teaching staff.
When Hazel W. Johnson-Brown was told by her local nursing school that blacks weren’t allowed to attend, she promptly found a way to show them how wrong that policy was. She trained in Harlem and joined the Army as a nurse. Her skills in the operating theater brought great acclaim and helped her quickly climb the ranks. She was the first black woman to be given the title of Brigadier General and head the 7,000-strong US Army Nurse Crops. She was named Army nurse of the year twice.
We honor these trailblazing nurses for their amazing contributions to the nursing field and for their activism to desegregate the profession.
Nurses take on caring for others. As a result, they usually don’t see people at their best. The care nurses provide is more than simple physical needs. They’re often on the receiving end of patients’ frustrations and fear and may function as an impromptu counselor or hand-holder.
If you’re privileged enough to be in a relationship with one of these special people, your nurse partner deserves some extra love this Valentine’s Day. Make it a day you care for them as much as they do for their patients (and for you.) Here’s some ideas to take your Valentine’s Day gift for nurses to the next level! You won’t find a box of chocolates, flowers, or restaurant reservation among them.
Nurses are known for giving TLC. Make their Valentine’s Day a day where they get some TLC. Start off with breakfast in bed and then move on to complete pampering. Give them a massage – don’t forget the feet, run them a hot bath complete with bubbles and candles. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, give them a gift certificate to spa for a full day of skin care, massage and pedicure or manicure. Finish it off with a home cooked candle light dinner.
Most nurses are caretakers by nature. This trait likely doesn’t turn off at home. They likely spend time cleaning, cooking and doing other chores at home to make it a comforting place to live. Show them how much you love them and appreciate all they do on Valentine’s Day by taking on some of these chores yourself. Clean every room. Not a quick sweep or vacuum, but a deep cleaning that includes dusting, moving furniture and washing linens, throw blankets, and throw pillows. Even better – do all this while they’re off enjoying that fabulous spa day you gave them!
It’s one thing to make your nurse partner breakfast in bed or a candlelight dinner. It’s another to make them food for the next week or month. Consider putting together a bunch of meals that can be frozen and defrosted. This gives them something to take to work without having to plan ahead. Present them with a coupon or gift card you make on your computer or by hand to show them the gift without having to stand in front of the freezer.
Who does the weekly errands in your house? If it’s typically your partner, who’s already giving so much time to others’ comfort, show them your love by taking over some of these tasks. Grocery shopping takes time; time your nurse partner might prefer to be relaxing. Other regular errands can be equally as time consuming. Up your game by taking over a few of them permanently instead of just for the day.
Whether you choose one of these options or come up with something yourself, the best way to show your nurse partner some love this Valentine’s Day is to make it about THEM. Be creative, show them you know who they are, what’s important to them and appreciate all they do to care for you and everyone else.
Article written by, Sarah Woodard