Editor's note: Never has nursing been so vital

Dale Keiger, editor

Image caption: Dale Keiger

My father knew whom to charm.

In the last two months of his life, he passed through an emergency room, an operating room, a rehab center, another emergency room,a nursing home, yet a third emergency room, and a hospice. As a patient, he could be a crabby, profane handful, but he had a gift for charming nurses. Most days, he refused to cooperate with the rehab center, but on the day I conferred with the facility's head nurse about his imminent discharge, she had tears in her eyes. When he breathed his last, there was a hospice nurse holding each hand. I wish I could forget most of those eight weeks, but I'll never forget the nurses.

Never has nursing been as varied a profession as it is now. Nurses still provide essential bedside care, but they also run their own practices as nurse practitioners, and risk their lives in disaster and conflict zones, and conduct valuable research, and teach, and make home visits, and staff community clinics, and influence public policy, and devise new technology, and work in senior management. If nurses all decided tomorrow to do something else, the American health care system would collapse.

In "The Nurse Will See You Now," writer Rosemary Hutzler Raun digs deep into the tremendous changes that have reshaped the profession. She also sounds an alarm that has been sounded before but still needs to be heeded: In the next few decades, we're going to need a lot more nurses, in every aspect of health care. Were my father here, he would agree.

Dale Keiger signature

Dale Keiger

Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor via email to jhmagazine@jhu.edu. (We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style, clarity, and civility.)