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National Nurses Week: Making a Difference in Difficult Times

National Nurses Week begins on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale served in difficult times, much like today’s nurses, who have faced incredible challenges during the past three years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has extended its recognition to include the entire month of May. ANA, which supports and promotes National Nurses Week, has selected the theme You Make a Difference to honor varying nursing roles and their positive impact on our lives. We trust nurses to bring their expertise and come to the aid of patients, families, and caregivers when we need them most.

Nurses have served a critical role throughout history, as Florence Nightingale demonstrated when caring for soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1800s. Nightingale decreased death rates from diseases such as typhus, cholera, and dysentery while also focusing on improving the care environment. Nightingale would be proud to know that her legacy continues to live on.

This year, National Nurses Month will include four weekly focus areas: self-care, recognition, professional development, and community engagement. We hope everyone will take time to honor your nurses this month (and every month) for their invaluable role in our lives.

Most trusted profession

For the 21st year in a row, Americans rated nursing as the most trusted profession, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. Gallup’s Honesty and Ethics poll has rated professions annually since 1990. Nurses have ranked first every year except 2001, when firefighters claimed the top spot.

In a January 2023 press release, ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy stated, “This recognition belongs to America’s 4.4 million incredible nurses. For more than two decades now, the nation has recognized the vital role you play in keeping our friends, families, and communities safe and healthy, regardless of the setting you work in or the challenges you might face. Your ranking in this poll is an acknowledgement that without your bravery, professionalism, and clinical expertise, our healthcare system could not function. I look forward to celebrating and sharing your many remarkable achievements over the course of 2023 and beyond.”

Mensik Kennedy also acknowledged the difficulties of the past year. Even though COVID-19 has receded, its impacts — along with challenges like workplace violence — continue to present threats to the nursing profession.

Yet today and every day, nurses are providing vital care despite these challenges with compassion and dedication. Nurses have stepped up to safeguard the well-being of their patients and communities.

The nursing profession brings personal challenges as nurses confront death and disease while providing care. When nurses arrive for their shifts not knowing what the day will bring, they know what they will bring to the day — their commitment to making a difference.

Top nursing characteristic: resilience

Nurses are resilient, persevering and performing effectively for the well-being of patients and their families amid crises. They navigate daily challenges, such as limited resources, long hours, and the constant call to ensure their patients receive excellent care when there may be fewer nurses than needed.

Nurses work both at the front lines and behind the scenes to serve patients and families in times of need. Nightingale applauded those qualities, saying, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear. I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

Today, nurses must often care for higher acuity patients with less support earlier in their careers. Those who make it through the challenges of their first years to become experienced nurses often make the difference for the next generation of nurses after them.

Show your appreciation

Leaders can make a difference for their nurses by taking the opportunity to highlight the positive impact each team member is making. Nurses appreciate leaders who intentionally support their emotional and physical well-being.

Strong support is critical to nurses’ ability to show up, give their all to their patients, face disappointments and successes, and bravely come back and do it all over again on their next shift. When leaders make a difference for nurses, nurses can continue to make a difference in their organizations by providing highly reliable care.

Relias celebrates nurses everywhere for their hard work and dedication. We appreciate all you do every day to make a difference.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and is updated every year with new content to reflect the year’s theme and issues.


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The emotional well-being of care teams can no longer take a back seat. Leaders must prioritize the mental health of their nursing workforce to ensure both quality care and financial stability.

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