CHICAGO (WLS) -- A special tribute outside of a hospital on Chicago's Northwest Side kicked off National Nurses Week on Wednesday.
Dozens of police cars and ambulances drove slowly past Swedish Hospital Wednesday to salute their colleagues on the front lines.
"This has really lifted the spirits of all the nurses and everybody in the organization," said Kathy Donofrio, the hospital's chief nursing officer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given National Nurses Day an even greater meaning this year. Nurses have been stretched to the limit with work that puts them in harms way, and it's even cost many lives.
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"The staff is scared. This is something that we've never seen before, but they're the bravest people I've ever met," said Robyn Barriffe, a critical care nurse.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle honored National Nurses Week by expressing thanks for their work, a cause close to her heart because her daughter is a nurse.
"They're providing life-saving care to our loved ones and communities most vulnerable to COVID-19," Preckwinkle said.
As a show of gratitude and appreciation, University of Illinois Hospital nurses were treated to a total of 2,500 meals.
"This is our opportunity to remind the public, as they've witnessed over these last weeks, the important contribution of nursing and to help us celebrate that," said Terri Weaver, dean of the UIC College of Nursing.
Putting an even greater spotlight on nurses is the fact that this is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, which has prompted the World Health Organization to designate 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
Special salute recognizes Chicago nurses on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic