By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

by rosmary/via Flickr

by rosmary/via Flickr

It’s here again, that week set aside to remember the accomplishments of Florence Nightingale and the good work all nurses do. Many nurses I speak with don’t like this annual event and feel it represents a patriarchal tradition that diminishes our professionalism. One nurse recently said to me, “Do they have a Neuroscientists Week, or an Attorneys Day?” (Actually, a Google search reveals there’s a “Be Kind to Lawyers Day”! But you get the point.)

Others say that Nurses Week provides an opportunity to promote our profession and gain recognition for what we do, even if only for a week—and that’s better than nothing. Organizations do seem to have evolved from the “Love a nurse prn” shoelaces to more substantial recognition, like a lunch with a noted speaker, or better yet, recognizing the achievements of their own staff.

On the other hand, I was surprised last year when I asked on AJN‘s Facebook page what nurses’ workplaces were doing for Nurses Week and many nurses replied, “nothing.” That word was often followed by some derogatory remarks about the facility.

I have mixed feelings, but I guess I fall more into the camp of using Nurses Week to remind everyone—including ourselves, colleagues, employers, and the public—of the complex and vital work nurses do. Without nurses, there is no health care system. Nurses Week is an opportunity to honor those among us who have achieved excellence and gone “above and beyond” in their work. Still, as a blog post from a few years back (“Superlatives: An Alternate List for Nurses Week”) gently suggests, honoring needs to be appropriate to the seriousness of the work we do and not be trivialized with meaningless trinkets and goodie bags.

The May issue of AJN will be open (free) for the entire month and, in keeping with the focus on ethics, we’ve put together a special collection of articles on ethics from our archives. Here are some other links to organizations highlighting Nurses Week:

Lippincott’s has a special Nurses Week page. Johnson & Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing’s Future has a compendium of events for Nurses Week on its Nursing Notes blog. Take special note of the opportunity to support Nurses House, a foundation to help nurses in need.

And, if you’ve never read it before or like another chance to do so, here’s former AJN editor Mary Mallison’s always inspiring eminently quotable “How Can You Bear to Be a Nurse?” from 1987. (You have to click through to the PDF version to read it.)


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