Next weekend is the Memorial Day holiday in the US. It is a time to mourn for US military personnel who died while serving. It is a day when people visit cemeteries and monuments to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by brave men and women.
Last year, ahead of this holiday, the HCLDR Community discussed whether or not there should be a memorial for those lost to COVID-19. In the year since, there have been many announcements of COVID-related memorials in towns and cities all around the world. Flint Michigan, for example will be creating a monument to healthcare workers and people lost during the pandemic.
This year I thought we would extend that theme and discuss healthcare memorials in general – can they help bring healthcare people together? Should they be a rallying point for healthcare advocacy?
Nurse Memorials and Monuments
One of the most notable monuments to nurses is the Nurses Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. Section 21 is the final resting place for 653 nurses who served in the US armed forces. Watching over them is an 11-foot tall marble statue of a nurse with a kind gaze representing “The Spirit of Nursing”.
In 2018, the UK dedicated a new memorial to the nurses who served in the First and Second World Wars. It is in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and has over 1,300 names of nurses who lost their lives engraved on it.
Canada has a monument to wartime nurses. It is located at the Saskatchewan War Memorial.
Although all of these memorials are fantastic reminders of the service nurses provided to the armed forces, none are an appropriate place for rally supporters for nurses or to make nursing-related announcements.
Physician Memorials and Monuments
There are so many memorials and monuments to doctors. It feels like every town has a statue, park bench, tree or plaque to commemorate the life/service of a cherished physician.
This is both fantastic and a little disappointing. There is clearly a disparity between the number of nursing monuments and the number dedicated to doctors. I don’t have an official count, but my guess would be that the ratio is at least 100:1.
Still, it is encouraging to see the work of people in healthcare acknowledged by the communities they have helped.
Patient Memorials and Monuments
There are many memorials and monuments to individual patients – mostly put in place by family and friends of those patients. These monuments are sometimes as simple as a rock with a plaque and as complex as playground structures in a patient’s favorite park.
Here in Toronto, an Anishinaabe artist, Nico Williams, has crafted a giant bead sculpture to honor the patients at SickKids hospital. “This work is something that really is going to represent the bravery of all these patients coming in and out of the hospital,” said Williams.
Monuments serve as permanent reminders of historical figures and times. To me they are a message from the past: “Do not forget the lesson we learned”. Unfortunately we don’t seem to listen to the sage advice from the past as much as we should.
Memorials and monuments are also rally points – for protests, major political announcements, and news reports. Here in Canada, when the federal government has an announcement to make about funding for veterans, they sometimes use the National War Memorial. That same Memorial is the place for people to rally who are protesting wars or who want to bring attention to conflicts in far away countries.
I have not seen the same in healthcare. I can’t remember seeing a protest or news story filmed in front of a nurse, physician or patient monument. It always seems to be in front of a hospital or the capital buildings. Personally I think seeing a statue of a healthcare worker or a patient in the background would be far more powerful.
Join the next #hcldr weekly tweetchat on Tuesday May 24th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here), when we will be discussing the following:
- T1 Should memorials to specific doctors, nurses or patients be used as rally points for protests or announcements? Or is that disrespectful to the memory of those individuals?
- T2 Do we need a monument that can serve as a rally point for healthcare? Like a single monument to patients, nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers in a public place?
- T3 What healthcare sacrifice or person would you like to highlight ahead of Memorial Day?
- T4 If you were to design a monument for healthcare, what would be dedicated to and how would you design it?
Ford, Steve. “New memorial dedicated to nurses of two world wars”, Nursing Times, 12 June 2018, https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/charities/new-memorial-dedicated-to-nurses-of-two-world-wars-12-06-2018/, accessed 22 May 2022
“Nurses Memorial”, Arlington National Cemetery, https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Monuments-and-Memorials/Nurses-Memorial, accessed 22 May 2022
Deer, Ka’nhehsí:io. “Anishinaabe artist crafts giant bead sculpture to honour SickKids patients”, CBC, 7 April 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/sickkids-hospital-bead-sculpture-nico-williams-1.5977080, accessed 22 May 2022
Nesbitt, Carmen. “New Flint monument to honor healthcare workers and those lost to COVID-19”, Flint Beat, 16 January 2022, https://flintbeat.com/new-flint-monument-to-honor-healthcare-workers-and-those-lost-to-covid-19/, accessed 22 May 2022
Nurses Memorial – Arlington National Cemetery https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Monuments-and-Memorials/Nurses-Memorial