When I pull up next to a police car at a stop sign or red light, I look over, smile and wave. I always get a return smile and a hello. I have the utmost respect for police officers, firemen, teachers, service men and women and many other selfless people who choose an occupation that helps others. Most don’t do it for huge paychecks, because they don’t get those. But their reward is our safety and well-being.

The other day I read a very disturbing and sad article about a congresswoman from Washington State who said nurses “… probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” This nonsense is not only absurd, it’s totally untrue — at least from my many interactions with the wonderful nurses I have known.

My mother had several hospitals stays, and if it weren’t for the kind and hard-working nurses and CNAs who were there to help her, I would not have survived. And neither, I believe, would she.

Although any hospital stay is unpleasant, the warm and caring nurses who take care of the essentials during one’s stay in a medical facility show the true compassion of this occupation. This also goes for physical and occupational therapists. Job duties requiring the most unpleasant tasks are taken seriously and without complaint, in most cases. As in any field, there are always a few who don’t measure up, but for the most part, the nurses I’ve met are top notch and extremely caring.

Let’s break this down: Doctors are there to treat and diagnose. In a hospital or nursing home, it’s the nurses who are there most often. The doctor comes in, takes a few minutes to go over information or assess your condition, but it’s the nurses who are there 24/7 to feed, bathe, dress, change bandages, take temperatures and blood pressure, and on and on. It’s essential for them to be compassionate and have the patient’s best interest at heart.

The nurse who gets a little less glory is the backbone of the staff. In my doctor’s office, all of the people are warm and friendly, and the nurse who takes vitals, updates information in the computer, sets appointments and gets everything ready for the doctor is an amazing and hard-working lady. I’m always greeted with a warm hug and a smile, and if I need something in-between appointments — whether for me, grandpa or our dear friend — I can text her or send a message and she responds in a timely manner. Bottom line: just like my doctor, she cares, too. I never see her playing cards!

I’ve been blessed to know many nurses personally. In fact, several of my very good friends and one of my kids have had long careers in health care.

“Nursing is one of the rare fields that require you to be engaged on all levels of patient care,” said Jori Luckhardt, long-time nurse and now Healthcare Risk Director for the Sutter East Bay Group (yes, I know her!). Luckhardt went on to say, “It takes mental, physical, emotional and spiritual engagement, and most nurses do it wholeheartedly and without reservations.”

I could not agree more.

I’m very grateful for the love and kindness that these nurses showed my mom while she was still here. As frightening as a hospital stay can be, and having to endure operations that leave you tired and sore, a good staff of nurses can make all the difference in the world. They surely did for her. So, kudos to all of you who make sure we and all our loved ones feel safe, protected and comfortable. Thank you for what you do!

And as for the senator in Washington: Politics aside, shame on you. Try their job for a day and I think the message would be quite different.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at marla2054@aol.com.