Acadiana health care professionals have gotten high praise from a source that knows them well — the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, from where many of them graduated.

Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, college dean, said she saw a similar campaign underway in Terrebonne Parish and decided nurses and other health care professionals here also should be lauded for their work during the coronavirus pandemic that imperils Louisiana.

She ordered large signs to be erected at area healthcare facilities in two shifts this week. Initially, they were placed at Lafayette General, Our Lady of Lourdes, Women’s and Children’s Hospital and University Health & Clinics. Later, the signs were displayed at Opelousas General, Iberia Medical Center, the Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital and the Heart Hospital of Lafayette.

The sign displays read, “Heroes Work Here,” and “Thanks to our healthcare professionals.”

“Health care workers don’t have the luxury of working remotely right now. They have to leave their families to help seriously ill people,” Oberleitner said. “They deserve an immense amount of respect and praise for that.”

She noted that the World Health Organization designated this year as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” which honors the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, a pioneer of nursing in Great Britain.

Oberleitner, a St. Martin native educated at UL Lafayette, said response to the signs has been enthusiastic; at some locations, nurses and other healthcare professionals have had photos taken by the signs. She has taught at the campus for some four decades; many of the healthcare professionals excelling at area healthcare facilities studied under her direction or during her administration.

We’re getting a lot of response from alumni,” she said, adding that the signs have “boosted morale” for healthcare workers at the sites.

She said nurses and others at the healthcare facilities are weathering historic challenges in healthcare.

“I went through the era of AIDS,” she said of her own career. “But this is so much different.”

She compared it to tending to patients during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which she said was “probably the closest thing we’ve experienced on a global scale.”


Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.