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Taking Care of Business

Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: December 2016 - Volume 116 - Issue 12 - p 7
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000508642.79704.26
Editorial
Free

Here's to those who quietly go about doing their important work.

AJN Editor-in-Chief E-mail: shawn.kennedy@wolterskluwer.com

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As I write this, we are a few days from Election Day and thus amid a last-ditch media blitz from presidential and state-level candidates. I'm looking forward to when it's over and we no longer have to listen to talking heads touting their accomplishments, as if they alone are responsible for their successful initiatives. We all know that significant achievements do not usually stem from the work of one individual, but rather from the efforts of many who laid the groundwork or worked quietly and competently in the background.

In this issue, we mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese war planes (see “Remembering Pearl Harbor at 75 Years”). The stories and photos highlight the experiences of some of the many Army and Navy nurses who were stationed there and witnessed the attack that killed more than 2,400 people and propelled the United States into World War II. Their stories have a common thread—after the initial shock of the attack, nurses and their colleagues went about doing what needed to be done, anticipating patients’ needs, improvising equipment, treating the wounded, and calming fears. Throughout the war—and in subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East—nurses in the military continued to do what needed to be done. In their words, they were just doing their jobs.

Another group that gets little recognition are those working in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). I recently had the opportunity to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and met with several of these workers. While the CDC doesn't have a definitive count of how many nurses work there, the number is estimated to be about 200. These nurses are involved in everything from tracking factors involved in fatal car accidents and assessing elder driver safety to establishing reporting programs for emerging public health threats such as the Zika virus. The Commissioned Corps is the uniformed cadre of health professionals in the USPHS that often responds to worldwide health crises, such as the Ebola virus in Africa (see “In the Hot Zone,” Profiles, April 2015), and natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states (see “On the Road to Disaster—and Back,” AJN Reports, November 2005). In addition to their day job in public health, these professionals are dispatched on assignments that can vary from two weeks to months. Yet many nurses, and the public, are unaware of these committed individuals who quietly go about doing what needs to be done.

The nurse volunteer on our cover, Mary Plumb Senkel, who is shown in a rural makeshift clinic in Haiti, is another example of a quiet doer. She represents the thousands of nurses and other health professionals who travel to underserved areas to offer assistance in providing health care and training. I know nurses and NPs who, instead of vacationing on a beach or at a resort when they choose to take a well-deserved respite from work, journey to a hardship area where they work long hours in austere conditions, often at their own expense.

But one doesn't have to travel to disasters or faraway places to find these individuals—they're all around us. These are the colleagues who come in early and stay late; the ones who go the extra mile to make sure the next shift has everything it needs to provide care; the nurses who calmly assist new grads and remind impatient colleagues that everyone was new once; the ones who always take the difficult patient without complaining.

Over the years, I've worked with many such people. In the busy ED where I worked these colleagues were a godsend, and I would rejoice when my shifts were with those who calmly and efficiently went about their jobs without drama.

I see those people where I work today at AJN. Many of the editors do remarkable work, assisting authors to present their work in the best possible way—so it's clear, accurate, and adheres to the high standards of scholarly publication. Yet few recognize the value of what they do.

During this holiday season, a time when people seem to be a bit more generous and willing to reach out to others, why not take a moment to look around your workplace, seek out those quiet doers who make things better for everyone around them, and thank them for what they do.

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