Healthcare workers continue to work the front lines of a fight no one could have predicted a year ago. But this is nothing new to nurses or other health care heroes, who have fought throughout the decades to save lives during earlier epidemics, wars, disasters, and the countless health challenges that affect individuals and their loved ones on a daily basis.
You can help recognize the vital contributions that nurses make as they provide essential care to those suffering from COVID-19 or other health care crises by participating in Nurses Week activities taking place May 6th through May 12th.
A Brief History of Nursing
The American Nurses Association (ANA) sponsors National Nurses Week to celebrate and honor the vital role nurses play in our society. Observance of Nurses Week begins on May 6th and concludes on May 12th, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
Florence Nightingale is credited with founding professional nursing. She first organized nurses and developed standards and responsibilities for the profession in the mid-1800s. Nightingale and her nurses worked to improve sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition standards in American hospitals, paving the wave for sweeping changes that saved millions of lives.
Florence Nightingale also founded the first professional nursing school in the world in 1860. The International Nurse Council originally declared International Nurses Day on May 12 in her honor.
The ANA has worked to promote and support those in the nursing profession since 1896. The organization ultimately extended Nurses Day into Nurses Week.
Health Care Workers Sacrifice their Lives to Save Others
Nurses continuously put their lives on the line while treating infected patients or working in war or disaster zones. Like all health care workers in similar conditions, nurses suffer physical and mental stress that can cause great personal damage, including death.
The stress of losing enormous numbers of patients to disease, of having to comfort people who may not have been able to be with a dying loved one, and the sheer discomfort of having to wear uncomfortable protective gear, enter negative-pressure rooms, and take other protective measures has taken a great toll on nurses and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many health care workers have become sick or died while trying to save others. Knowing the risks but acting anyway in order to save lives is the definition of heroism.
An online article by NBC News entitled Health Care Workers Have Sacrificed Their Lives Fighting COVID calls COVID-19 the “most consuming health care crisis in more than 100 years.” And while thousands of health care workers across the globe have died from COVID-19 or related complications, reporter Phil McCausland explains the exact number is unknown because there is no central database with that information.
Recognizing Nurses as Heroes During Nurses Week
Besides giving recognition to the valuable contributions and sacrifices made by nurses, Nurses Week helps encourage men and women to consider nursing as a rewarding career.
The American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing (AAPACN) provides the following resources to show support for one or more special nurses or the profession as a whole.
- Download a free Nurses Week 2021 screensaver: Hanging Stars, Super Heroes, Flowers, or Unstoppable.
- Print a Happy Nurses Week 2021 card to send or share to show your appreciation (or send a letter or video).
- Take charge of your own well-being and wellness with health resources and the Wellness Wednesday Challenge.
- Visit restaurants and shop retailers offering discounts to nurses, including Mrs. Fields Cookies, IHOP, Outback Steakhouse, L.L. Bean, Reebok, Vera Bradley, Ring.com, Samsung.com, and BJ’s Wholesale.
- To let others know you appreciate them, leave a message of support and gratitude on our Nurses Week Kudoboard. Leave a note and invite others to join the Kudoboard and post their own notes of thanks and support.
If you provide the AAPCN with the name and email address of a nurse hero you want to recognize, they will send an e-card on your behalf.
How Can Organizations Spread Awareness about Nurses Week?
Any business, charitable group, health care provider, advocacy group, or other group or individual can help spread the word about the nursing profession and help recognize nurses as heroes.
Here are some ways you can celebrate nurses.
Write a letter to your local newspaper that highlights the heroic work nurses do every day or post on social media. Telling stories about actual situations is a powerful way to help others understand the sacrifices nurses make to support patients and families.
If you work in a health care setting, offer free blood pressure checks, cholesterol screening, and other wellness checks to raise awareness about preventative health.
If you employ health care workers, honor your staff for going above and beyond during extremely difficult times by holding an in-person or virtual awards ceremony.
Purchase merchandise that promotes Nurses Week for your staff, patients, or clients.
Raise money by sponsoring a walk, run or other event and give the proceeds to a local charity in honor of Nurses Week.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to honor nurses is to let them know they are not alone. If they are struggling mentally, physically, or both, help is available. The ANA provides a comprehensive resource page for nurses, their supervisors, and their employers on mental health help for nurses. Make sure the nurses you know receive the help they deserve.
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