The Vital Role of Health Professionals in a Crisis

Sep 16, 2013

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.  

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