Growing up, I dreamed of many professions, but nursing wasn’t one of them. My great aunt was cared for round the clock by nurses, and they were great women, but I only came to visit for an hour here and there and didn’t really understand what they were doing on a regular basis.

But when I graduated high school and started looking into career opportunities, a friend of mine suggested nursing. She said I was patient, kind and cheerful and that those were the most important character traits for a nurse.

I decided it was worth a try and went to find out more about working as a nurse. I discovered how critical nurses are in the day to day care of patients. Doctors in hospitals and nursing homes often come in and out and leave the bulk of the care to their nurses. Nurses administer medicine, track vital signs and report to physicians on patients’ symptoms and overall health.

Nursing school was hard but exciting. I was psyched to start my first job and I came in on my first day overflowing with enthusiasm. It only took a few days until I realized that being a nurse is much harder than it seems! I was on my feet all day, lifting, turning, feeding and writing on charts. And I had to keep a smile on my face even on days when I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep away the day (or night).

I stuck it out and boy, am I glad I did! Nursing got a little easier but it’s never going to be an easy job. There are days when I trudge home utterly exhausted and with swollen feet, but I know this is the only job for me. I love that I am making a difference in people’s lives every day. I love that my patients know that I am always willing to lend an ear, whether they want to talk about their aches and pains or their exciting life experiences. I absolutely love that there are patients of mine whose lives have been saved because I was paying attention.

Every year, when National Nurses Week rolls around, I think that a week is not really long enough. Nurses deserve a whole month devoted to them – at least! In many ways, we are at the forefront of medical care, including elder care. We are the first point of contact with the patients and the intermediary between them and their doctors. We deserve a medal or two, right?

So here’s what I want to say to my fellow nurses: You don’t need National Nurses Week to remind you that what you’re doing is majorly important. All you have to do is look into the eyes of your patients to see how much they depend on you and how affected they are by a few kind words. If you get a few extra thank yous next week, that’s awesome. But if you pay attention, you know that you’re being thanked multiple times each day, even if you never hear the words.