Nurses Are Our Everyday Heroes

An open letter to nurses from Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson.

Young boy who is a cancer patient, with no hair, holding a stethoscope to his heard as his nurse listens to his heart.

Each year, National Nurses Week provides an opportunity for me to reflect on the significance of our nurses here at Kaiser Permanente and around the nation. Nurses display heroism day in and day out, putting their patients front and center, working behind the scenes to provide a caring touch and professional expertise. This year, especially, I’m reminded of that heroism as I think back to the recent tragic fires that raged across the North Bay and Southern California.

The North Bay fires were among the worst natural disasters in California history, destroying nearly 9,000 structures. The fires impacted our Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center directly, forcing us to evacuate 122 patients. More than 200 Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians lost their homes, yet they performed heroic acts to evacuate the medical center and move our patients out of harm’s way. Many went on to join their colleagues at other Kaiser Permanente facilities, and in the community, to continue to care for those affected by the fires.

I had the opportunity to spend time with the staff in Santa Rosa and San Rafael during the fires and afterwards. I heard about countless acts of heroism, including Julayne Smithson, RN, who only had time to run into her home and save her nursing papers and some scrubs. While her home burned, she did not think twice about returning to help her patients.

Or Benjamin Huggins, RN, whose wife, also a Kaiser Permanente nurse and nine months pregnant with their first child, had to evacuate from their home. Benjamin continued to care for his critically ill patient until the patient was safely transferred to another hospital.

When Southern California was ravaged by fires, Kaiser Permanente nurses once again rose to the occasion despite physically challenging conditions, as homes burned and there were mandatory evacuations for our physicians, staff, and members.

Meagan Billman, LVN, came to work at Oxnard 2 Urgent Care after having been evacuated in the middle of the first night of the fires. The blaze was so close that her husband suffered mild facial burns as they rushed from their home. Once she knew her family was safe, her main concern was her patients and the people affected by the fires who needed help.

Kaiser Permanente nurses work tirelessly to help their patients, such as those impacted by gunshot wounds, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. They also help bring babies into the world, help people of all ages recover from surgery, and care for families whose loved ones have taken their last breath.

The dedication and sacrifice of our nurses does not go unnoticed. Kaiser Permanente joins this week of appreciation by honoring our more than 58,000 nurses. They are leaders, clinicians, researchers, innovators and scientists, who are helping to transform care to improve the health of our communities and nation. They provide extraordinary nursing care to every patient, every time. Many of us have experienced a nurse’s kindness, devotion, compassion and care: their heroism.

Nurses are our everyday heroes, who deserve recognition and gratitude. Please join me in thanking and celebrating our nurses.

Bernard J. Tyson
Chairman and CEO