Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine has come a long way. More than half of Mainers over age 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, leading the nation and bringing us one step closer to the end of this pandemic.

A rock painted with a “thank you” message for nurses sits outside Maine Medical Center in Portland last Dec. 11. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer, File

While there is light at the end of the tunnel, there would be no reason for optimism without the vital contributions of Maine’s nurses over the last year. With Thursday being National Nurses Day, there is no better time to celebrate the nurses who, along with doctors and other members of the health care team, brought us through the dark days of the pandemic and closer to a future where hundreds of thousands of Mainers can receive the vaccine and we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror.

Since last March, more than 1,500 Mainers have been hospitalized because of COVID-19. This has placed an unprecedented burden on nurses, who continue to serve on the front lines of the pandemic. Nurses not only provide much-needed care to those who have contracted COVID-19, but also show much-needed compassion to those in need. They care for us, in every sense of the word. They have saved countless lives in recent months, often protecting victims and their families from undue hardship, under extraordinary circumstances. This novel disease COVID-19 has literally had us learning about how to prevent and treat the illness as we are simultaneously providing needed care.

Given Maine’s nursing shortage, which only adds to the burden on the state’s health care systems, the work of nurses is even more miraculous. By 2025, Maine could face a shortage of 3,200 registered nurses as nurses in the baby boomer generation retire. Yet Maine’s nurses have persisted and persevered, overcoming staffing shortages to guarantee the high-quality standards of care to their patients. We are excited about our new nursing colleagues as they join the profession and grateful for the nursing assistants and other members of the health care team that we are honored to work with every day.

National Nurses Day is a special time for Mainers to thank their nurses and encourage others to join their ranks. From public education to the health care system, we need to do more to highlight the virtues of nursing as a life-saving and important profession.

While National Nurses Day is a cause for celebration, it is also a time for action. When it comes to public health, public awareness matters. In June, the American Lung Association will virtually host its 37th annual Trek Across Maine fundraising bike ride, allowing participants to track their own progress and complete their mileage goals by cycling 60, 120 or 180 miles at their own pace. Since 1985, the Trek Across Maine has raised nearly $30 million for lung health, and this year’s fundraising efforts will assist the American Lung Association’s efforts to end COVID-19 and other lung diseases.

Our hospital, Mid Coast Hospital, is proud to be based in Brunswick, the traditional starting line for the Trek. We’re even more proud that several nurses and other care team members from Mid Coast will again be participating in the event. It is care team members like ours and across the state who are taking action, reminding us of their vital importance to the broader Maine community.

We encourage you to follow suit, on National Nurses Day, Trek day and every day of the year. Support nurses and frontline care team members. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

Thank you, nurses, for all that you do.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.