Picture from Say Thanks to a Nurse on International Nurses Day
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Say Thanks to a Nurse on International Nurses Day

The nursing profession has come a long way since Florence Nightingale and her team cared for the wounded and dying during the Crimean War in the 1850s. She helped improve unsanitary conditions in a British base hospital and provided personal care to the injured during her night rounds, earning herself the title of “The Lady with the Lamp.” She also improved the quality of food fed to recovering patients and established a laundry to provide clean linens. She later became a consultant during the U.S. Civil War about how to make conditions better in field hospitals there.

International Nurses Day was since established on May 12, Nightingale’s birthday, as a way to honor the work and commitment of nurses around the world who are often the unsung heroes of health care.

Likewise in the movies, they often play secondary roles. But their presence can make a life or death difference for those they are caring for.

Unless you are a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter franchise, you may not even remember Poppy Pomfrey. She’s the competent caregiver who nurses the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. She has exceptional diagnostic skills and vigilant about making her patients rest. Her character is played by British actress Gemma Jones and appears in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

No space exploration party would leave Earth without medical staff in place. Patti Yasutake plays Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the 1996 movie Star Trek: First Contact. She played the same role in several television episodes. Ogawa is a Starfleet officer assigned to sickbay.

Marcia Gay Harden plays a no-nonsense nurse who takes charge of the ER when President John F. Kennedy is brought into Parkland Hospital in the movie Parkland. After the doctors fail to show up, she and the other staff are among the ordinary individuals forced into historic events as they fight to keep the president alive.

In the World War II movie, South Pacific, Lieutenant Joseph Cable is given the task of creating a roadblock to stop a Japanese invasion. But he needs the scouting services of a French local Emil de Becque. Unfortunately de Becque is less interested in the war and more interested in Nellie Forbush, the head of the nursing contingent at the local US Naval base.

Two ace WWII pilots are swept up in the frenzy surrounding the war. However they also find themselves in competition for the attention of a particular navy nurse named Evelyn Johnson. But three’s a crowd when it comes romance in this drama about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The 1949 movie Pinky tells the story of a girl with skin light enough to pass for white, who denies her black heritage while attending nursing school. But when she returns to her home in the South, she is forced to either accept her heritage or give up the man she loves.