Nursing News

Nurses Week Kicks Off with a Variety of Recognition Events

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

May 6, 2011 - Across the country, people are celebrating Nurses Week, commemorating the achievements and dedication of the nation’s 3.1 million nurses who continually make a difference in their patients’ lives.

Nurses Week 2011
Susan B. Hassmiller, Ph.D., RN, called Nurses Week an opportunity to recognize the caregivers, case managers and policy shaping nurses who will help ensure better access for patients.

“National Nurses Week is an important time to recognize the contributions of nurses and the unique role they play in our health care system — from case management and decision making to front-line work with patients and their families,” said Susan B. Hassmiller, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, senior advisor for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J. “Nurses also are essential to efforts to improve health and health care; they have and will continue to lead the way in ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered care.”

The first national recognition of nurses occurred in October 1954, to observe the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s Crimea mission. Intermittent proclamations followed, and it wasn’t until 1993 that the American Nurses Association board of directors designated May 6-12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week, starting in 1994. The week wraps up each year on Nightingale’s birthday.

Nurses Week 2011
Robin Schaeffer, MSN, RN, CNE, reported that he Arizona Nurses Association will highlight nurses from the state who have taken part in medical missions during a special Nurses Week event.

“[Nurses’] value should be recognized every day by people in management positions, but it is important on May 6 to celebrate,” said Pamela T. Rudisill, MSN, RN, MEd, NEA-BC, past president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives. She explained that most institutions hold events and offer awards in collaboration with other disciplines. The events help raise community awareness and recognize the importance of the academic progression of nursing and nurses’ role in the delivery of health care.

Rudisill encourages nurses to look toward the future but not forget where we started with Florence Nightingale, who once said she attributed her success to never giving or taking any excuse.

“Once a year, we find time to recognize nurses and give them a day to relax,” said Robin Schaeffer, MSN, RN, CNE, executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association in Tempe, which kicks off the week with a Promise of Nursing luncheon to thank nurses for their contributions and announce scholarships. This year, the association will highlight the nurses who went on medical missions.

Hospital events taking place

Nurses Week 2011
Cole Edmonson, MS, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, said this year Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas will be celebrating that special relationship that exists between nurses and their patients.

Hospitals have taken different approaches to commemorate nurses during this special week. Some keep the activities light, while others have taken this opportunity to address more serious issues and call public attention to nurses’ contributions to health care.

“Although we at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas celebrate nurses and their accomplishments all year long, Nurses Week gives an opportunity to concentrate and focus on a noble profession that is truly under recognized and under celebrated for the role they play in health care delivery,” said Cole Edmonson, MS, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. The hospital will give nurses cups they can refill all week with free beverages in the cafeteria, hold a ceremony with physicians recognizing nursing excellence and conduct “Magnet Rounds” to highlight great things the various units do for nurses.

Although she appreciates the recognition, Michelle Pecenka, RN, FCCS, nurse manager of the medical intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, said most nurses don’t like being in the spotlight and do the work because they truly care and want to make a difference in the world.

“Nurses Week is a special time for us to reflect on the awesome opportunities and responsibilities we have been given,” Pecenka said. “We celebrate the amazing things that nurses do each day and we recognize those who support us in doing so. Nurses Week is a wonderful way to remember where we have been and look forward to where we are going as a profession."

Nurses Week 2011
The banner from the nursing team at Montefiore Medical Center's Weiler Division medical-surgical ICU.

South Nassau Community Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., will kick off the week with a poster contest and a breakfast with a lamp lighting ceremony and nurse recognition, attended by local elected officials. During the week, it will hold a certified nurses celebration, a blessing of hands during unit rounds and a remembrance ceremony.

Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., has hung banners on each unit and promoted nursing associates participating in “Acts of Kindness” toward each other. It will provide chances at gift baskets, offer massages and Zumba courses, distribute gifts, and hold a talent show and outdoor events.

Montefiore has combined breakfast recognition events for its 3,000 nurses with educational programs about heart failure, social networking, pain management, stress relief, holistic therapies, humor, and the future of nursing. The following week, the hospital will hold its first nursing research symposium.

“It’s a time for us to acknowledge the extensive contribution of every nurse and their dedication,” said Tracey McGlinchey, RN, human resources business partner for the department of nursing at Montefiore, adding that the hospital recognizes nurses throughout the year but still felt it important to put together an extensive Nurses Week celebration.

Scripps Health in San Diego, Calif., has introduced a “Walk with a Nurse” program this year. Tom Gammiere, chief executive for Scripps Mercy Hospital, invited leaders in the community to shadow a nurse for an hour, suggesting that the best way to understand health care is by experiencing it with nurses.

Health insurer recognizes nurses

Nurses Week 2011
Jeannine M. Rivet said the UnitedHealth Group appreciates the work its nurses do every day and recognizes them during Nurses Week.

Hospitals are not the only employers recognizing nurses. UnitedHealth Group in Minneapolis, Minn., employs 7,000 nurses nationwide. It will highlight nurses on its intranet and offer professional development programs about leadership and professionalism, taking charge of your health and the future of nursing.

“Nursing is the heart and soul of our organization,” said Jeannine M. Rivet, executive vice president for UnitedHealth Group. “Nurses touch people all along the spectrum.”

University events to entertain and educate

Nursing educators also are celebrating the week.

Chamberlain College of Nursing, with eight campuses around the country, is holding “Nurses Night at the Ballpark” at the stadiums for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams. Students and faculty can enjoy the games for free and nurses in the community can attend at half price.

The University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing has taken a different tact, presenting the “Media Images and Screen Representations of Nursing” symposium at the UCLA Medical Center, which will bring media representatives together with nursing leaders to talk about how to more accurately portray nurses’ role and work.

“The image of nurses on screen has been a vexing issue for nurses that has come up in class and with colleagues,” said MarySue V. Heilemann, RN, MS, Ph.D., an associate professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and the symposium’s creator, adding that tying the event to Nurses Week and Nightingale’s birthday enhances the focus.

Western Schools will offer a free one-hour continuing education course, “MSRA:  A Healthcare and Community Issue,” during Nurses Week.

“Nurses Week is the perfect time to celebrate [nurses] and provide a small token of our appreciation for all the hard work they do,” said Bob Sample, vice president of SC Publishing, Western Schools’ parent company.


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