Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, lived up to her nickname "Angel of the Battlefield." A volunteer nurse, Barton helped care for the wounded at Antietam -- the most lethal battle in the Civil War -- using much-needed medical supplies that she herself had spent a year collecting. Among those supplies: fresh bandages to replace the corn leaves that surgeons had resorted to using as wound dressings and tourniquets [source: National Park Service].
The vast majority of nurses will not go down in history like Barton, but they're heroes to the patients they minister to. Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, perform indispensable, yeoman duties in the hospital, nursing home and doctor's office. They may take patients' medical history, fill out insurance forms, give injections and start intravenous drips (IVs). They may supervise nursing aides, teach school kids about hygiene and show patients' families how to administer medication and give baths.
Registered nurses, or RNs, take on more specialized nursing duties. Some are educators, managers and consultants. Some specialize in certain fields, from dermatology to substance abuse.
Today's nurses may never have to scrounge for supplies, but they face on-the-job challenges of their own. In this article we look some of the mountains and molehills they regularly encounter. As with every job, some headaches are inevitable. However, there are many ways that nurses' patients, their patients' families and their colleagues in the medical field can make life easier for these hard-working professionals.