School Nurse

Kim Kirk, a nurse at Tom McCall Elementary School in Redmond, works on organizing a cabinet of supplies in preparation for the upcoming school year on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.

The World Health Organization declared 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse,” a time to celebrate nurses today and honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, also known as “The Lady with the Lamp.” Nightingale was a British nurse during the Crimean War and is honored as the pioneer of modern nursing.

“Nursing is the embodiment of robust science and compassion,” said Patricia Barfield, Ph.D., assistant professor and assistant program director, Oregon Health and Science University – School of Nursing, La Grande campus.

“When people think of a nurse,” Barfield added, “they often envision tasks associated with nursing, such as taking a blood pressure or giving a shot. They are less likely to think about the complex decision making, the skilled observations, the constant analysis of data, the problem solving and the prioritization of action that nurses do innately — all the while reassuring the patient and family.”

A recent graduate from the nursing program, Amy Black from Prairie City, reported that nursing is “such an appealing career, a career that allows me to serve others and brings purpose and joy to my life.” Black passed the state board exam and will be working at a hospital rotating through critical care units. She reports that high school staff helped her find financial resources including scholarships.

“Our nursing class had students just out of high school,” Black said, “and some in their 50s, both men and women, and we all got along and were supportive to each other.”

Barfield noted, “The OHSU La Grande campus offers residents of Eastern Oregon an excellent place to learn and to launch a nursing career.”

How to support nurses in the context of the pandemic experience?

“Two ways,” suggests Barfield. “First, follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19, wear a mask, social distance and maintain hand hygiene. When/if you become infected, or you infect another person, you put yourself, your family, your community at risk and every nurse on the front line increased risk. Nurses go home to their families at the end of their shift… Many nurses live in fear of spreading COVID-19 to their own families.”

“Second, be kind to the nurses,” Barfield said. “Nurses often receive the brunt of patient anger, aggression, frustration or outrage. Nurses work long hours … (and) are facing overwhelming circumstances of loss and grief.

“Random acts of kindness, little tokens of appreciation go a long way to restore the soul of a nurse. A kind word, a thoughtful card, a considerate act…the little things matter.”

For information regarding the OHSU La Grande campus nursing program, visit

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