National Nurses Week is upon us once more, giving hospital leaders an opportunity to spend time with nursing staff and engage in meaningful conversations. The week begins May 6 and ends May 12 marking the 191st anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. The past year has seen highs and lows for the profession, and Nurses Week provides a time to recognize achievements and hard work.
As I argued last year, too often Nurses Week is applied as a salve; one week of over-recognition for 51 weeks of under-value and under-appreciation. Some clueless hospital leaders see Nurses Week as a time to hand out gifts and make speeches about "angels of caring."
Leaders that "get it" use the week to recognize dedicated professionals who perform a difficult job—problem-solving partners who tackle tough issues such as lowering healthcare-associated infections and reducing distractions so nurses can spend more time on patient care and less on paperwork.
This year Nurses Week is a welcome distraction from an uptick in news about disgruntled nurses striking or threatening strike action. Nursing unions are fighting battles across the country over staffing issues and safe patient care. On Friday, nurses at one of Boston's high-profile hospitals, Tufts Medical Center, have planned a walkout over safe patient staffing levels, and it looks like the strike will be echoed at other hospitals in the state.
At a time when important new studies have been published linking higher nurse staffing to reduced readmissions and lower patient mortality, relationships between hospitals and nursing staff have been tumultuous.
The last year has also seen the release of the most important report to hit nursing in decades with the conclusion of the Institute of Medicine's study on the Future of Nursing. The report offers a blueprint for where the profession can go, along with concrete steps for how to get there.