The Nobel Prize in Nursing – A Recognition Whose Time Has Come

Think about all the endless hours the nurses spend in all the emergency rooms, intensive care units, hospitals and clinics of the world, tending the sick, healing the wounded, and bringing light, hope and better health to the millions around the globe…

Think about the qualifications they bring to such a critical public function and what would have happened if they weren’t there in the congested hospitals and battle fields of the world?

Isn’t that a service equal in importance to the one delivered by a Nobel-price winner author, doctor, or politician? Ask the millions who have experienced the magical presence of a professional nurse next to their operating table or hospital bed, and the answer will be a resounding “Yes!”

So why is there not a similar Nobel prize for the Nurses, recognizing at least one “healing angel” on behalf of all the other countless healthcare providers, honoring them and recognizing their indisputable contribution to the world health and peace?
A Baltimore Sun op-ed penned by Columbia University nursing professor Kristine Gebbie and Center for Nursing Advocacy executive director Sandy Summers has raised the same excellent question and we hope it won’t be the last.
If there is a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, why not also have one in Nursing?

After recalling the contributions of some truly exceptional nurses like Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), Mary Breckinridge (1881-1965), Susie Kim, and Elizabeth Ngugi, the authors make the following observations:

“Who cares whether nurses win international prizes? We all should. The world is struggling with the lethal effects of a nursing shortage, and the related migration of nurses away from the neediest countries – due in part to a lack of understanding of the nature and value of the profession. The recognition that comes with such prizes could greatly benefit the public’s health by proclaiming to the world, from preschoolers to national leaders, that nursing is one of the most vital fields of human endeavor.”

Given the fact that the existing Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recognizes only the scientific research in medicine, we clearly need a new category to honor the indisputable contribution nurses make to our lives.