By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

So Nurses Week 2011 has come and gone. I was in Malta at the start of it—at the 2011 International Council of Nurses (ICN) meeting in Valletta—and in New York City at the end of it.  From two disparate locations, there was a singular thread: nurses seeking information to improve the lives of their patients and themselves.

In Malta, there were over 2,000 nurses from all over the world. Some participated as their nation’s representatives in the Council of National Representatives (see an earlier post describing ICN activities); some came for the educational sessions, or to share experiences or initiatives that have made a difference in the lives of nurses or patients. (I wrote about two of these moving stories.) The conference also served as a reminder of how much I regret not being fluent in another language—four years of high school French and a French-speaking grandfather helped a little, but there’s nothing like meeting colleagues who speak two or three languages (their own native language, English, and usually a bit of another one) to make you realize how necessary it is to be multilingual in today’s world.

On one day, I was eating lunch with colleagues from Brazil and Belgium. We were able to converse because I could speak a bit of French, which one Belgian translated to Flemish to her colleague, who translated it into Italian, which apparently was good enough for the Brazilian to get the gist of things! And because Malta is a relatively small island, you couldn’t help meeting nurses wherever you went—from the small shops to restaurants to visiting one of the 365 churches. It was easy to fall into conversations.

When I returned from Malta, I attended a conference at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx to speak about writing and how to go about getting published. There were wonderful presentations on trauma care and wound care, including many photos and descriptions of combat wounds, infectious draining wounds, and postsurgical fistulas. And as I listened to the presentations of what caring for these patients entailed, I again marveled at what nurses know and do on a daily basis, and how many may not realize what amazing work they do and how crucial it is to the patients who are on the receiving end.

So while I’m not a fan of cheesy, token Nurses Week prizes or ice cream lunches by institutions that treat nurses badly, I am a fan of taking time to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible work that gets done every day, everywhere, by nurses. I hope many of you had a Nurses Week tribute worthy of what you do. I’d like to hear about what your organization did, so please add a comment below and share your experience.

(And one more thing—in case you missed it: in honor of Nurses Week, Kim at Emergiblog tips us off to a recording of Florence Nightingale from 1890. Amazing.)

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