Nurses Week: An Annual Occasion for Mixed Feelings and a Little Reflection

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 NursingCenter.com 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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5 Comments

  1. […] Perhaps, as Shawn Kennedy, the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Nursing, wrote in a blog post today, we need to start using Nurses Day as a launchpad for our […]

  2. […] Perhaps, as Shawn Kennedy, the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Nursing, wrote in a blog post today, we need to start using Nurses Day as a launchpad for our […]

  3. Regina Wysocki May 6, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I agree that Nurses Week is a chance to raise awareness of our profession, and highlight the many different career paths Nursing provides. I prefer to focus on the positive, and shine a light on our colleagues that are doing an exceptional job. If all Nurses do online is complain about where they work, etc. how will we encourage students to enter our profession? We need smart, young tech savvy students to go into nursing, and help advance the profession!

  4. […] Perhaps, as Shawn Kennedy, the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Nursing, wrote in a blog post today, we need to start using Nurses Day as a launchpad for our […]

  5. Moonstruck May 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Most nurses I talk to about Nurses week tend to be more concerned with patient safety standards including but not limited to standardized Nurse to Patient ratios, medication administration safety, and the increase in errors in proportion to longer hours and increased expectations. Maybe we should consider making it “Patient Safety Week” even if it’s a duplicate I think most nurses would gladly trade the token Nurses week for some actual effective change in the safety of the patients they serve.

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