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Celebrate Nurses Century!

nurse bear 
May 12, 2010 -- Happy Nurses Day to nurses around the world! Every year around the time of Florence Nightingale's May 12 birthday, nurses are thanked and honored for their work, as they deserve to be. In the U.S., nurses get an entire Nurses Week! Check out the adorable sample gift to the right. But as we have often noted, these celebrations can seem like little more than lip service, hollow expressions of thanks to a profession that really does not get the respect and resources it needs every day for clinical practice, education, residencies and research. The celebrations often emphasize the enduring "angel" image, suggesting nurses are noble and self-sacrificing, which discounts the advanced skills that the public really needs to know nurses have, and arguably reinforces some nurses' own unfortunate tendency to sacrifice themselves so much that it runs counter to their patients' and their own best interests. This year the American Nurses Association's theme is "Nurses: Caring Today for a Healthier Tomorrow," which rightly suggests that nurses affect patient outcomes, and the International Council of Nurses' theme is "Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Chronic Care," which has a great focus on skill and leadership. Both groups also present some helpful ideas to focus the celebrations on nurses' skills, rather than their virtue. Of course, many have also urged that 2010 be considered the International Year of the Nurse. But on April 27, HealthLeaders Media editor Rebecca Hendren posted a thoughtful and provocative piece called "Do We Still Need Nurses Week?" We can imagine the stir resulting from her humorous discussion of the annual rituals, such as the "parade of suits from the C-suite bringing lunch or snacks to the units," as well as her suggestions that nurses celebrate with activities of greater substance, like raising funds for nursing education or promoting nurses' bedside safety concerns. Hendren suggests, correctly, that other serious professions don't get or need special "weeks" or trinkets because they get actual respect. And yesterday, New York Times "Well" blog contributor Theresa Brown published a good op-ed on the CNN site arguing that if hospitals really wanted to honor nurses, they would provide them with the staffing needed to save more lives (and incidentally, give them the time to eat lunch). Still, we can't resist offering a short list of our own suggestions for celebrating Nurses Day, Week, and/or Year.

  1. Take a tip from the CBS television show Undercover Boss: Give your hospital CEO a special Nurses Week nursing shift on your unit! (Nursing supervision required.)
  2. nurse bearT-shirt idea: "My physician colleagues got 99% of the funding for research and residencies, and all I got was this Nurses Week T-shirt!"
  3. Take "Nurses" Week literally and save lives: staff more than one registered nurse on each unit, all week!
  4. A practical Nurses Week gift item, in recognition of the high level of abuse nurses continue to face in the workplace: Nurses Week Security Kit, complete with logo'd Nurses Week baton, mace, and judo lessons!
  5. The Elite Media celebrates Nurses Week: For one week, nurses are actually consulted for press pieces about issues related to the ED, the ICU, end-of-life care, and public health, while all drug company ads urge consumers to "ask your health provider" about their products!
  6. Hollywood Celebrates Nurses Week: For one week, nurse characters actually provide the nursing care shown on all network television shows. Most actors playing physicians can wrap up filming in a couple days, then hit the beach at Malibu the rest of the week!
  7. Supersize Nurses Week: Make mine a Century!


Oh, and if we get at least 50 people interested in getting a t-shirt like the one above, we'll get them printed. Likely price $15, just click here to take a quick survey to let us know of your interest. Thank you!


book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

Save Lives. Be a Nurse. bumper sticker