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At the Miss America pageant, one contestant said what we all needed to hear about nurses.

It's an important message about not being defined by what you do.

In this year's Miss America pageant, Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson brought her unique talent center stage.

No, she didn't sing, dance, spin plates, solve long division problems, or do magic tricks. Instead, she spent some time talking about what she does when she's not repping her state on national television: nursing.


She told a story about how one Alzheimer's patient changed everything about the way she looked at her job.

In her mind, she was "just a nurse." Not a doctor — "just a nurse." But her patient Joe helped remind her that "just a nurse" or not, she helped change his life for the better.


Not able to change his treatments, Kelley connected with Joe on a more personal, emotional level.

The two spent quality time talking to one another. When he was hurt, she was there for him. When things were tough, she was his lifeline. When he lost hope, she helped restore it.

One night, Kelley came to Joe's room and he was crying. "Joe, I know that this is really hard," she said to him. "But you are not defined by this disease. You are not just Alzheimer's."

That's when he made her confront her own limiting self-definition. "Nurse Kelley, then the same goes for you. ... you are not just a nurse."

Kelley had forgotten how special it is to be a nurse. There is no "just" about it. Nurses are lifesavers.

Nurses change lives. Nurses save lives. Whether it's Kelley Johnson with her patient Joe or the nurse at your local clinic, these men and women have a real impact on society. It's a field that doesn't get nearly the appreciation it deserves.

That's what makes it so heartbreaking that many people inside and out of the field view nursing as an insignificant component of the medical system. In reality, nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients. Their job defines how patients connect to medicine.

It's widely expected that within the next decade, the U.S. will experience a shortage of nurses.

We need nurses, and if things don't change, they'll soon be in short supply. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing outlines a number of factors contributing to an oncoming shortage, including an insufficient number of training facilities, an increasing number of nurses nearing retirement, and a stressful environment that leads some nurses to ditch the field.

Nurses are awesome, and they're far more than "just" anything.

Is there a nurse in your life? Let them know that you appreciate what they do.

Take a bow, Kelley!

You can watch Kelley Johnson's monologue from the 2016 Miss America competition below:

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