A “Salute to Nurses” Letter (Published in the Boston Globe honoring five McLean Nurses)

April 15, 2016

For many years I’ve scanned your annual Salute to Nurses, and this year I’d like to point out your annual omission: psychiatric nurses. You omit them because, due to the pervasive stigma attached to mental illness, patients do not openly recognize and honor these nurses. By continuing to ignore the huge number of psychiatric units and their workers, you are continuing, even supporting the persistent stigma of seeking help for psychiatric illness. You will not see heartfelt gratitude to a nurse written by a grateful patient that would expose that person to the public as someone who has a mental illness. Yet almost every general hospital has a psychiatric unit or sends its many psychiatric patients on to a psychiatric hospital, and those units are full to bursting. Please help to at least acknowledge this incongruity. Highlighting the availability of mental health treatment might show your readers that help is accessible. This is no longer the era of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Ratchett is long gone. In fact, many of our smartest new RN graduates are choosing psychiatric nursing, finding it to be a fascinating, challenging field that is utilizing new therapies based on a tremendous amount of research done in recent years. But I am now suggesting you honor five veteran nurses who have been working in the Admission area of McLean Hospital for many years. They have seen so much, dealt with so much, and never know who, or in what condition, will come through the door that day. And more than one reader of this paper will recognize them: Arpi Sarian, Kathy Smith, Anne Marie Lyons, Rebecca Sanford, and Sandra Thompson. Thank you.

– Nominated by Jeanette Kingsley, RN

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