The Vital Role of Health Professionals in a Crisis

On a beautiful sunny day in April, countless lives were touched and, for some, irretrievably altered by the horrific and senseless bombings that marked an abrupt and gruesome ending to this year’s Boston Marathon, and shook the foundations of our community. Many have already written about and commented poignantly and eloquently on the unimaginable destruction, grievous deaths and injuries, heroic bystanders and first responders, and the surreal days that followed.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, posted a notable blog for The New Yorker two days after the bombings, lauding the coordinated and skilled responses of Boston’s hospitals in saving the life of every victim who was not killed outright:

But beyond the emergency treatment, surgeries, and stabilization Gawande describes so well, what soon became apparent was that healing, recovery and a return to daily life for the victims and their families depended primarily on the expertise and continuing care provided by the very health professionals the Institute educates: the nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists. It is their knowledge, skills, and dedicated efforts that have been so instrumental in the care and rehabilitation of those who suffered limb amputations, brain trauma, hearing and visual loss, and other physical and emotional injuries.

Too often, the work and impact of these professionals goes unnoticed, is not well understood, or even misunderstood by the public and the media. Therefore, it has been most gratifying to see the media’s attention to and recognition of the vital roles played by therapists and nurses in the victims’ moving stories of recovery and rehabilitation.

Day in and day out over the weeks and months following the bombings, these often unsung health professionals have worked tirelessly and compassionately with the victims and their families to restore hope and function and quality of life.

How fateful that our new neighbor in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, was scheduled to open a short 12 days after the bombings. Having such an oasis of recovery, restoration, and hope when the Boston community most needed it could not have been better planned or foreseen.

I am proud to say that many of our faculty and students, along with nearly 100 of our alumni who are employed by Spaulding, became part of the teams providing such skilled and humane care for the bombing victims. I have no doubt the injured and their families know well, and are not likely ever to forget, the difference these often silent health professionals made in their lives and their futures.


Janis P. Bellack

President of the MGH Institute of Health Professions and John Hilton Knowles Professor, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Nursing Education. She currently serves on the governing boards of Partners HealthCare International and the Center for Medical Simulation (Boston). Jan served as consultant and core faculty member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Executive Nurse Fellows leadership development program from 1998-2010, based at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Center for the Health Professions, where she also held a role as a senior fellow from 1996-2012. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the National League for Nursing’s Academy of Nursing Education, and an elected member of Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society and the Raven Society, the oldest honorary society at the University of Virginia. She was honored as the 1998 Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Florida College of Nursing, inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at the University of Kentucky in 2002, and named the 2007 Distinguished Alumna of the Year by the University of Virginia School of Nursing.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in President's Perspective

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>