The Little Humiliations of National Nurses Week

By Stephen Cummings, via Flickr.

By Stephen Cummings, via Flickr.

“When is ‘Kid’s Day’?” That’s what I asked my mother on Mother’s Day one year, after she’d finished opening her gifts from the five of us. And—like many who’ve asked before—I was told, “Every day is Kid’s Day.” This led me to realize that people who have days or weeks dedicated to them must have it pretty bad the rest of the year. Professions with prestige and power don’t have a day or a week. So how can nurses be seen as equal professionals if we have Nurses Week?

And then there’s the way it’s celebrated. Most facilities give out token gifts to the nursing staff—all of them, from aides and medical assistants up to nurse practitioners (NPs). In the past I’ve received a MetroCard holder (which I managed to hold onto for about six years), a pair of socks that said “Real Nurse,” and an off-unit ice cream party that no one had the time to attend even if they wanted to. Perhaps my favorite was the year my employer gave out those rubber toys you squeeze to relieve stress (which they ran out of because they didn’t buy enough). Another year a hospital held contests: prizes were given to the nursing staffer with the nicest fingernails, the nurse with the best penmanship, and to the sexiest staff member (I’m not making this up!). Is it surprising that physicians and hospital administrators would question nurses’ judgment after witnessing this?

Some no doubt think it’s harmless and even nice that nurses get some recognition. And I always appreciate the card my mother sends me each year. But I think most nurses would say that, like other professionals, they’d rather have respect and recognition on a daily basis—and let the money be spent on adequate staffing and supplies. (For some radical suggestions about what a real Nurses Week might involve, read this 1999 editorial by AJN’s editor-in-chief, Diana Mason.)

That said, AJN would like to give nurses something they can actually use. We will be giving open access to our May issue at AJNOnline from May 6 through May 12.—Christine Moffa, MS, RN, AJN clinical editor

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2016-11-21T13:30:26+00:00 May 6th, 2009|career, nursing perspective|8 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

8 Comments

  1. Nurses Week | FTP2FTP News May 21, 2009 at 7:35 am

    […] Nurses Week 2009: Celebrating Nurses Worlwide | Suite101.comI don’t think I’ve ever understood the purpose of National Nurses Week. Last night, I pulled out the latest edition of “From Silence to Voice,” by Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon so I could write an article for my fellow nurses about … Read more […]

  2. JB May 12, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    This year, the nurses from each of our hospital units made “theme baskets” and the baskets were raffled at the end of the week.
    Very nice baskets with spa themes to beach themes to wine country themes. We raised over $2400 to give to a local charity that helps many community members in need.
    Who really wants the trinkets? This was about nurses giving to others.

  3. […] the profession? Christine Moffa, a nurse and editor at the American Journal of Nursing, tackles the question on its blog Off the Charts:  “[P]eople who have days or weeks dedicated to them must have it pretty bad the rest of the […]

  4. Nursed May 11, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I was in charge of the hospital newsletter and preparing the list of Nurses Week activities a few years ago. Every day at a food theme. Cake on Monday, Cinnamon Rolls on Tuesday, Donuts on Wednesday. My headline was “Fatten Up Your Nurses Week” activities. I also thought it was funny because we rarely got breaks until 8 hours into our 12 hour shift … and by then most of the goodies were either eaten by the other staff or stale and scary looking.

  5. Theresa Brown, RN May 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I was saying at work today that it’s only people who are disempowered who get a “day” or a “week”: secretaries, mothers, and nurses. I agree with Ms. Moffa about the gifts given, too. Instead of prizes and a free meal how about we get a raise!

  6. Mary K Parker May 7, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever understood the purpose of National Nurses Week. Last night, I pulled out the latest edition of “From Silence to Voice,” by Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon so I could write an article for my fellow nurses about piggy-backing on recognition weeks or months (May just happens to be National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Stroke Awareness Month). It seems as though I am the only one writing and submitting articles for our nationally-distributed newsletter. Maybe that’s why we need National Nurses Week—because these nurses would be invisible otherwise….

  7. Janet RN May 6, 2009 at 11:34 am

    My hospital didn’t even know it was nurses week until after I asked them about it yesterday… I doubt I’ll get anything this year, but in this time of depression, I guess I’m lucky enough to have a recession proof job, right? 😉

  8. Barbara Olson May 6, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I think the best “ah-ha” gift I received during my years as a nursing professional was the schooling I received in “human factors” when I served on a jury that heard a chipper-shredder mishap! I wish “systems-thinking” had been part of my early years in nursing, but I now blog about the “science behind the compliance” in patient safety. I’m doing a nurse-to-nurse tribute at Florence dot com all week and hope you’ll check it out. It goes well with other gifts, token or otherwise, nurses will receive this week.

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