by Jason P. Smith
The streets of downtown Denver were a sea of green hats, green t-shirts, dyed green hair and even a yellow lab with green spots all over him Saturday, March 15 as people gathered from all around for the 41st annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Denver.
The parade, which was held in a different location this year, looped around about a mile and a half of Lower Downtown. As everyone in the parade gathered together to organize their floats and get into their outfits – which could have been anything from a clown on a unicycle to a bunch of middle-aged men in go-carts – one group was organizing their stickers and putting on their stethoscopes.
For the eighth consecutive year, there has been a strong showing of nurses who show up to march in the parade. In affiliation with the Colorado Nurses Association, the idea came in 1996, when the nurses marched to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Nurses Association. The idea has continued to grow, with a fair number of nurses who come out each year to show their support in the parade.
The parade is open to all nurses who would like to march in the parade. Each year those in the parade organize the float with a specific theme. For example, last year the float saluted the 10 nurses who were killed in the World Trade Center tragedy.
This year the float focused on the future of nursing, hoping to reach a few people in the crowd and educate them on the importance of nurses and make them aware of the current nursing shortage.
"We need to get more nurses into the profession," said Gloria Shea, who has been a nurse close to 30 years. "It’s a great profession – you can go anywhere in the world and be a nurse. It’s a lot of hard work, but I’ve loved my career so far."
The nurses were marching through the crowds receiving countless cheers for their work from those in the crowd who appreciate all the hard work nurses do. As the nurses who were in the parade marched, they handed out colorful stickers to the children that said "My nurse says I’m special" and "My nurse cares for me."
Along with the stickers, the nurses also handed out small, one-page pamphlets filled with facts about nursing. The fact sheet was a boiler plate for nursing information, including statistics about nursing and what people can do to help with the nursing shortage. The sheet also ended with an attempt to combat the stereotype that only women are nurses. "When I grow up, I want to be just like my daddy. . .a nurse," the pamphlet read.
The actual float used during the parade complemented the message the nurses hoped to convey to the crowd. The float featured Paula Stearns, executive director of the Colorado Nurses Association, dressed as Florence Nightingale to show nursing from the past. The float also featured young children – "future nurses" – with their nurse relatives.