The yearly celebration of National Nurses Week begins on May 6th and then wraps up on Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12th. Many offices, hospitals and clinics are planning ways to raise awareness, and recognize, the important role of nurses and honor the nursing profession. As the largest healthcare workforce, employed in a variety of settings to provide compassionate care for people at their most vulnerable times, it’s no wonder that an entire week is devoted to celebrating nurses.
As a nurse for over twenty years, and a nursing administrator, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy both planning for, and participating in, the celebration. Company size and budget shouldn’t deter your organization from celebrating National Nurses Week. You might even discover that it’s the little things that are the most meaningful. When I asked fellow nurses which gifts or gestures received over the years they found most significant, several said they’d never been recognized for their nursing work. Others identified the most meaningful gift as a kind word or handwritten note expressing appreciation, confirming that even small efforts are appreciated.
The history of National Nurses Week
National Nurses Week may have started with honoring the woman known as the founder of professional nursing, but it’s grown into much more in the years since its inception in 1954 on the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to the Crimean War. It was not until 1982 that the annual celebration of nurses’ efforts was nationally recognized, and then later extended to a week-long celebration in 1990. The maintenance of the title of the most ethical and trusted profession on the Gallup Poll for the last sixteen years displays the extent that nurses have touched lives.
Celebrate nurses as individuals~root~>
This week often prompts patients, employers and family members to seek ways to recognize the important contributions of special nurses in their lives. If you do a little research you can find numerous suggestions of how to celebrate, but none of them will matter if you don’t first determine what’s important to the nurses. The best way to find out is to ask them.
Create a Poll
Determine how your nurses would like to celebrate National Nurses Week by utilizing the most convenient survey method for your office, such as Survey Monkey. Include options for the nurses to choose from that are reasonable and within your budgeted time and money such as:
- Small token gifts — choose products relevant for their work, or sentimental items.
- Celebratory lunch — provide a luncheon, snacks or plan a banquet.
- Inspirational books — several nurses expressed how much they appreciated receiving a helpful book. You could select encouraging books about the lives of nurses, or one focused on the unique challenges of nursing, or dedicated to career advancement.
- Recognition events — plan either public, or internal, recognition events featuring unique awards for attitude, enthusiasm or years of service.
- Career development — determine if your nurses prefer celebrating with an opportunity for career growth such as providing an educational session through seminars, a conference or a speaker.
Spread the word
No matter how you decide to celebrate, you can foster and maintain enthusiasm all week by:
- Decorate the office based on the theme — Each year the American Nurses Association determines a theme for Nurses Week. This year the theme is, Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence.
- Handwritten notes — solicit patients, other staff or administrators to provide appreciation cards featuring positive feedback or words of encouragement. Nurses thrive on a team mentality and often credit coworkers for their career success. Offer the opportunity to share their appreciation of exceptional colleagues.
- Share their stories — many nurses claim they always knew they would go into nursing, while others discovered the profession later in life or choose nursing for personal reasons. Encourage reflection by asking nurses to share their stories about why they went into nursing, how a patient affected them, or what they love about the profession.
- Create a display — share graduation photos or pictures from back in the day to compare nursing caps or post each nurse’s baby picture depicting, A Nurse is Born.
Honor the nursing profession
The nursing shortage isn’t expected to end anytime soon with the multitude of baby boomers reaching retirement age. Take your Nurses Week celebration a step further with efforts to support changes to improve working conditions and encourage future generations to choose the nursing profession.
- Provide education on the nurse’s role — raise awareness of the important role of nurses in our society and what nurses do by spotlighting personal stories in the newspaper or on your website.
- Start a scholarship fund — help future generations of nurses by offering a scholarship fund, or utilize funds to award a conference or tuition reimbursement to one of your current nurses. Base it on a theme and have a silent auction or bake sale to raise money.
- Donate to a chosen charity — provide staff the opportunity to choose what charity your practice will support with a donation.
- Public policy — support safe staffing, advocacy, the reduction of nurse bullying and burnout by raising awareness with information from the annual Nurses Take DC rally at the U.S. Capitol, or gathering information from RNAction.org, or by writing to influential legislators.
Touched by a nurse~root~>
At some time in your life you were probably affected by a nurse’s care. Whether it was personally, someone in your family, or the nurses that care for your clients. Nurses often devote every day of the year, often working long shifts and holidays, to provide compassionate care to others. Devoting one week of the year to celebrate nurses can go a long way to inspire current and future nurses.