By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor
May 8, 2013 - Thank you. Gracias. Mahalo. Merci. However you say it, there are countless ways to show appreciation for nurses during National Nurses Week and beyond. Celebrated annually from May 6 through May 12, National Nurses Week offers the opportunity for patients, family members, friends and other healthcare professionals to convey their gratitude and honor nurses for the sacrifices they make all year long.
Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), said honoring nurses doesn’t have to be in the form of a grand gesture. In fact, it’s the simple things that often mean the most in the long run.
Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of ANA, said that a simple thank you note or gesture can mean a lot to a nurse, and that nursing leaders can find a number of ways beyond just words to convey their appreciation for staff.
“I actually keep a box of written thank you notes and messages that were sent to me by patients over the years. And on occasion I will go back and look at them” she said. “Acknowledging appreciation to nurses by either sending a message directly to the nurse, or sending a card to managers, sharing the difference that a nurse made in your care experience, is a great way to say thank you and recognize how important their work is.”
Acts of thanks often go beyond the written notes, Daley explained, recalling an instance when a group of patients came together to thank a nurse by planting a tree in her honor.
“Those kinds of gestures are very meaningful to nurses.”
And it’s not just patients who can honor nurses; management plays a key role in recognizing nurses at the facility level.
“This is a week where management and nurse leadership within the care systems can take a moment and thank the nurses directly,” she said. “There are ways beyond just the words that nurse leaders and managers can convey their appreciation and value what nurses do. Leaders should look at their work environments and determine how it can become more secure, safe, healthy and productive for the staff nurses.”
Creating cultures of safety, implementing new safety equipment such as lifting technology, ensuring adequate staffing levels and supporting professional development are all proactive things that leadership can implement throughout the year to show nurses that they are respected and valued.
“A 2011 study by Dr. Linda Aiken out of the University of Pennsylvania showed that the work environment is just as important as the number of nurses. You can staff up to an appropriate number of nurses but if you don’t have a positive practice environment it will continually detract from your ability to give good care.”
Nurses have the power to be innovators and create a culture of appreciation and change within every unit. The 2013 Nurses Week theme is Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care, and promoting appreciation among nurses on a peer-to-peer level can help make this year’s theme a reality.
Nominating outstanding nurses for industry awards such as The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses or the ANA’s National Awards Program is another great outlet to distinguish hardworking nurses regardless of their practice area.
The American Nurses Foundation offers the “Honor a Nurse” program that aims to make every week National Nurses Week. Anyone who has been impacted by a nurse can fill out a nomination form and make a monetary donation in the name of a nurse.
[Editor’s Note: See the NurseZone Nurses Week Contest in the sidebar for another way to honor and thank a nurse colleague, May 6-20.]
“Nurses value these awards so much, and you never get tired of people recognizing the work and the difference that you made,” Daley said. “Awards like the DAISY are so meaningful to the nurses partly because they can come not just from management, but from peers. There’s nothing like getting praise, support and appreciation from a colleague--whether it is a physician, a nurse or someone you are working side by side with.”
Nurses can show thanks and appreciation for one another by providing mentorship for new nurses, sharing knowledge and experience with peers or just supporting fellow nursing colleagues.
“We should treat our colleagues with the same level of respect and kindness that we hopefully treat our patients with,” Daley said. “Extending that appreciation to one another is so important.”
Although National Nurses Week culminates on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12, it is important to remain mindful and express thanks and appreciation for RNs and other nurses all year long.
“I don't think we should take for granted the good work that we do,” Daley concluded. “We need to be supportive of one another as nurses. Showing appreciation for each other is just as important as the recognition we receive from those we care for.”
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