Nurses, What’s Your ‘Elevator Speech’?

“We need to value ourselves—what we do, all that we know, how we change lives. If we don’t own and value our worth, no one else will.”

It’s always nice to write about some good things happening, and this week there are two that gave me a lift.

First, an award: The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE) recently named this blog the winner of the 2017 gold ASHPE award for best blog. I’m pleased that the hard work by blog editor Jacob Molyneux and the AJN editors and authors who contribute to the blog was recognized. AJN also received a gold award for best cover illustration for our October 2016 political cartoon cover, a silver award for best peer-reviewed journal, and a bronze award for best news coverage. I’m thankful every day that I work with such talented people. They’re committed to upholding AJN’s reputation and mission:

to promote excellence in nursing and health care through the dissemination of evidence-based, peer-reviewed clinical information and original research, discussion of relevant and controversial professional issues, adherence to the standards of journalistic integrity and excellence, and promotion of nursing perspectives to the health care community and the public.

Second, it’s time for Nurses Week: This Saturday begins Nurses Week (May 6-12), the last day of which always marks the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday (May 12, 1820). Nurses Week is a period for acknowledging the profession and the work we do. And while some of my nursing colleagues still rail against what they say is a throwback, a paternal “pat-on-the-head-for-the-girls,” others are more pragmatic and feel we should take every opportunity to promote nursing’s work to the public.

I guess I’m in that latter camp. In her editorial in May 1982, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 6 as Nurses Day (the American Nurses Association expanded it to Nurses Week in 1990), AJN editor Mary Mallison noted,

“To some, the notion of a ‘national nurse’s day’ is somewhat embarrassing, but we’ve got one on May 6, like it or not, Presidential proclamation and all.”

The elevator speech. Mallison urged nurses to come up with what we’d call now an elevator speech, so that when people asked, “But what is it that nurses really do?” they would hear specific examples of how nurses change lives and save lives. Her timeless and always powerful editorial, “How Can You Bear to Be a Nurse?” (April, 1987), is a great response to the question (read it for free through May 14; for the best version, click the PDF link in the upper right of the landing page).

I agree. We each should have a thoughtful response about what it is we do. I think we all know by now we should NEVER use the phrase, “I’m just a nurse,” which sounds like a half-hearted apology. Instead proclaim, “I am a nurse.” According to Amy Costanzo, author of the March Viewpoint column, “Just a Nurse, or a Bedside Leader?”:

“When you say ‘I am a nurse,’ you are claiming the values of nursing and your contribution to assisting patients in achieving their best level of health.”

We need to value ourselves—what we do, all that we know, how we change lives. If we don’t own and value our worth, no one else will.

As is our tradition, the entire May issue of AJN will be free for Nurses Week starting today through Sunday, May 14. We also have a special collection of articles in keeping with this year’s Nurses Week theme, “Nursing: the Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit”—they will also be free for the week.

2017-05-05T10:13:36+00:00 May 5th, 2017|Nursing|2 Comments
Editor-in-chief, AJN


  1. Vernon Dutton (@nursingpins) May 14, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    The nurses voice in the direction of healthcare has never been as import
    as it is now. Get involved Whenever, However and Wherever you can.

  2. jparadisirn May 5, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Congratulations to the editors of AJN for recognition of your excellent work. You deserve it!

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