Nurses have a sainthood about them. Day in and day out, they lend experience-based knowledge, keen instinct and compassion to help save lives and care for patients. It’s a difficult job, and most of us have known at least one who holds a special place in our hearts.

But as important as nurses are, there are many kindnesses and selfless acts that go unnoticed and unrecognized. It could be a nurse whose calming voice gives the bit of comfort needed before going into surgery, or the nurse who also takes care of her patient’s family, and does so with tenderness.

This year, 59 Madison-area nurses were nominated for the Top Nurses award—an honor that recognizes outstanding work in a field that requires a specific skillset to not only treat a patient, but care for a patient.

“You care, because that’s what the heart of nursing is,” says Karen Larson, one of six professionals chosen in the categories of leadership, innovation and practice. These six health care professionals represent those who are behind the medical miracles we experience, both large and small. We offer a glimpse into their lives—lives spent caring for others.