Farewell to Nurses Week 2011

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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2016-11-21T13:12:58+00:00 May 18th, 2011|career, nursing perspective|3 Comments
Managing editor, American Journal of Nursing


  1. jeffery zimmerman August 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    My organization “attempted” to make my fellow RN’s and myself feel special with an ice-cream social for Nurse’s Week this year. Thanks, but no thanks! I understand it’s the thought that counts, but you can keep the hot fudge and cherries. I would rather have the congratulations and praise from administrators rather than cold treats. My peers and I agree that we’d rather have a day where the hospital invites former patients for lunch, gives them the food and prizes, but allows us to see/spend time with the lives we’ve touched and saved. It’s a satisfying yet solemn reality knowing that we, as nurse’s, do this job for our patients because we genuinely care about other peoples well-being, not for the fame and fortune. Yet a little more recognition would be nice. I thought the Johnson & Johnson nursing ads from a few months on national television were amazingly well put together and made me feel appreciated, proud.

  2. Jessy Varkey July 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    What the nurses really in need for is the recognition. It is sad to notice that as any other industry, marketing has become a priority in nursing too. Employers are competing to let the world know how well they celebrated nurse’s week, how many different activities were there, how often these activities are held, what gifts were given(often useless), how good the luncheon was etc. If one looks at the video or photos of these activities, one will know that most of the time same people are participating in these events. Supervisors and managers do not recognize who are the hard workers and who are the slackers. They don’t realize that some nurses are not in their office all the time chatting and helping them with the next activity like others because they are getting the important job done.

  3. Rhonda May 31, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I am a bit late on this, but I didn’t realize that nurses week existed. I don’t work directly in the field so it’s understandable. Glad to know we’re appreciated.

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