Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
Celebrating Nurses during National Nurses Week
BILOXI, Miss. – Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) nurses – along with nurses around the world – are celebrating National Nurses Week May 6 through 12 despite an unprecedented health care crisis challenging traditional gatherings and observances.
Nurses at the Biloxi VA Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi; at the Mobile Community-based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Mobile, Alabama; at the Joint Ambulatory Care Center (JACC) in Pensacola, Florida; the Eglin CBOC at Eglin Air Force Base in Crestview, Florida; and at the Panama City Beach CBOC in Panama City Beach, Florida, have traditionally celebrated National Nurses Week with gatherings, but the ongoing COVID-19 global health crisis has mitigated local celebrations, as reliance on individuals in the profession has become increasingly more in demand.
According to Dr. M. Christopher Saslo, the GCVHCS Associate Director for Patient Care Services and the organization’s Nurse Executive, nurses have historically embraced challenges, all the while maintaining a high standard of care and willingness to provide assistance to those in need.
“Nurses have met this challenge head-on despite the risks to the healthcare teams,” Saslo said. “Our nursing heroes have worked side by side with their healthcare partners to maximize the care delivery to those areas hardest hit. In addition, [the GCVHCS] Nursing Service has actively engaged in the VA’s 4th Mission – aiding community long-term care facilities in collaboration with Department of Defense and Federal Emergency Management Agency employees to Gulf Coast areas hardest hit during this current global health crisis.”
National Nurse’s Day is annually celebrated May 6 in the United States, with May 12 recognized as International Nurse’s day across the world and Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Weeklong celebrations of the event have historically included conferences, appreciation events organized by community partners and luncheons.
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), the first Nurses Week was observed between October 11 through 16, 1954, but it wasn't until 1974 when President Nixon issued a proclamation that a week would be designated by the White House as National Nurse Week. May 6 was recognized as National Recognition Day for Nurses in 1982, and in 1993, the ANA designated National Nurses Week May 6 through 12.
Additionally, this year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.
Saslo said that nurses are a critical element of a Veteran’s health care process, directly impacting patient care in a variety of scenarios and roles and embracing the changing methods of care delivery.
“Nurses provide an incredible variety of skills in so many aspects of care in the VA Healthcare system,” he said. “This includes direct care, managing complex care, outpatient, surgical, virtual care, case management and so much more. These roles only continue to evolve as technology evolves at a rapid rate, and nurses accept these challenges head-on, not shying away from new and innovative challenges.”
Saslo added that the recent push toward virtual health care tools – including the VA’s telephone and video appointments and secure messaging options which can put a Veteran in direct contact with a health care provider from home – require nurses to continue advancing their skills and keeping abreast of changes.
“Since Florence Nightingale gave face to the profession of nursing as one of research and prevention, the profession has evolved to be more and more complex each year,” Saslo said. “In the past decade alone, technology has progressed so rapidly that the need to change our delivery of care requires incredible flexibility and adaptability.”
An estimated 100,000 nurses staff the VA nursing corps, providing care and impacting the lives of Veterans at facilities across the United States. Saslo said the teamwork demonstrated through the GCVHCS Nursing Service is unparalleled.
“The sense of belonging, collegiality and camaraderie in the GCVHCS has been an incredible experience for me,” he said. “Our sense of kindness, commitment and compassion in nursing is one that makes us strong and unified no matter what the challenge and I could not be more fortunate to be part of this incredible team which contributes to the GCVHCS being a shining beacon of strength to America’s heroes.”
The Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 70,000 Veterans.