Nurses are at the front lines of community health and patient health care. They make policy, face life-threatening emergencies, build healthy communities and schools, conduct health-improving research, and are often the human face of healthcare organizations. Nursing is the largest healthcare workforce in the nation, it is regularly ranked as the most trusted profession, and employment in nursing is expected to grow much more rapidly than the average for all occupations.
National Nurses Week honors the expertise, care and contributions of nurses across the broad scope of our practice, and calls upon us all – nurses and non-nurses alike — to reflect upon and express gratitude for working relentlessly to keep us healthy. National Nurses Week falls during the birthday week of Florence Nightingale, a complex woman who formalized the work of nursing during the Crimean War and created the role of the professional nurse. She was the descendent – as we all are – of the community health workers and caregivers who have focused on the health of all of us for millennia. National Nurses Week shines a spotlight on the work that nurses do every day. This is a week when nurses often receive the thanks that may be absent the rest of the year, and the recognition of the expertise and skill that nurses bring to shaping healthcare.
One of the essential roles of a nurse is the assessment and support of recovery – from birth, from an illness or injury, or, this year, from a pandemic. Nurses are emerging from the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic with a new understanding of the limitations and strengths of our healthcare system, and of ourselves. This is an opportunity for us to reflect on the many ways that nurses and nursing change lives, to honor the work that they do and the people they care for, and to reinvigorate the hard work of changing healthcare into something both more sustainable and more equitable for us all. Nurses are so lucky to do the work that they do, to be invited into people’s most intimate thoughts and lives, and they deserve the support of our community to do that work. This week is an opportunity for nurses to feel that support, to know it is there, and to call on it to create change in ways that keeps them able to do the critical work they do.
To recognize the critical contributions that nurses make to our local, regional, and global communities, please join us in thanking, honoring, and celebrating the positive impact of our nursing faculty, students, alumni and partners alongside of the American Nurses Association that names this year’s National Nurses Week “You Make a Difference.” What should you do? Support nurses and nurse organizations. Encourage news outlets to seek out nurses as experts in healthcare. Advocate for adequate worker protections and safety measures. Call on elected officials to make policy that supports the health of our communities. Thank the nurse who held you during labor, who tracks your child’s immunization needs, who expertly assessed you in an ER, who helped a family member exit this life feeling cared for, who developed the care pathways that guide chemotherapy, who support the health of our communities, who write laws, who shared a laugh with you during a difficult moment. Nurses make a difference, and you make a difference for Nurses.
Shari L. Dworkin, Ph.D. M.S. Professor and Dean, School of Nursing and Health Studies
Meghan Eagen-Torkko, Ph.D., CNM, ARNP, FACNM, Associate Professor and Director of Nursing Programs