National Nurses Month and More: Celebrating on a Global Scale

ANA, WHO, and other organizations promote new recognition programs

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Nurses have long been known for the conscientious and compassionate care they provide to patients in need. This has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By John Roszkowski
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Over the past year, the heroic efforts of nurses and other healthcare workers in providing care for patients during the pandemic have been well documented. Nurses have placed their personal health and safety at risk to care for sick COVID patients and to provide comfort to dying patients and their families. Because of these extraordinary efforts, several national and international organizations are paying special attention to the contributions of nurses this year.
Making A Difference
The American Nurses Association has extended its Year of the Nurse designation for 2021. The yearlong campaign is part of a global effort started in 2020 by the World Health Organization to recognize and advocate on behalf of nurses, according to Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, Director of Nursing Programs for the ANA. As part of its nurse recognition efforts, the ANA has expanded its traditional National Nurses Week recognition to include the entire month of May. The theme of Nurses Month is “Nurses Make a Difference.”
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Boston-Leary said the ANA had planned to celebrate the Year of the Nurse and Nurses Month last year, but many of those plans had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. “It’s a campaign that’s continuing, and it should be even louder and more resonant this year because of all that nurses endured during the pandemic,” she said. Boston-Leary said the pandemic has brought increased attention to many pressing issues facing nurses, including nurse staffing shortages, the need for more personal protective equipment, full practice authority for advanced practice RNs, and the importance of increased diversity in the nursing workforce. “We felt a month would give us the time we needed to bring a lot of these issues to light while also celebrating nurses and the profession,” she said.
It’s a campaign that’s continuing and it should be even louder and more resonant this year because of all that nurses endured during the pandemic.
— Katie Boston-Leary, RN
Nurses Month will be divided into four weekly focuses or themes. The first week, which runs May 1-9, will focus on self-care and promoting the physical and mental well-being of nurses. The second week, May 10-16, will focus on nurse recognition and honoring nurse heroes, innovators, and leaders. The week will include a virtual awards ceremony by the American Nurses Credentialing Center on May 14, featuring the presentation of national awards such as the Magnet Nurse of the Year®; Pathway Nurse of the Year™; and the ANCC Magnet Prize® and ANCC Pathway Award®, both sponsored by Cerner®. The third week, May 17-23, will focus on the professional development of nurses. The week will feature a free webinar titled “Redefining Nursing – Reaffirming Our Practice” on May 19, which will include a discussion of national nursing practice standards and the release of the ANA’s “Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 4th Edition.” The final week, May 24-31, will focus on community engagement and educating the public on the important roles nurses play in their communities. Boston-Leary said the ANA has not yet decided whether this year’s monthlong celebration of Nurses Month will become an annual event, but “our goal at the ANA is to recognize nurses all year long.”
International Recognition
The ANA’s nurse recognition campaign mirrors that of other organizations including the World Health Organization, which designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife to recognize the vital role nurses and midwives play in providing health services worldwide. The WHO has designated 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers to include “all of those who are at the forefront of fighting the pandemic,” according to Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Development Department for WHO. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Protect. Invest. Together.” “The message for this year is we need to protect those workers who have protected us, and we need to invest in nursing and health and care workers around the world,” said Campbell. The WHO’s campaign this year has five major objectives. In the short-term, it calls for the world’s health and care workers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021 and also commemorates those workers who have lost their lives fighting the pandemic. The organization also is encouraging its member countries, global financial institutions, and charitable organizations to expand investment in health and care workers throughout the world. While this year’s campaign is focusing on health and care workers more broadly, Campbell said nurses are an important part of that equation. “The global estimate is that about 70% of the healthcare and social workforce is women, and when it comes to nurses and midwives, it’s closer to 90 to 95%,” he said. In May, the WHO will introduce an agenda item for a new global strategy on nursing at its World Health Assembly meeting. “This is a significant step because it will set the global agenda for nursing for the next decade,” Campbell said.
The Need for Action
Howard Catton, CEO of the International Council of Nurses, hopes the new global nursing strategy being considered by the World Health Assembly will ultimately lead to increased worldwide investment in nursing leadership, nurse education, and jobs. “Nurses and healthcare workers often hear verbal expressions of gratitude, but that isn’t enough in itself,” he said. “Applause needs to translate into action.” Catton said the ICN has chosen “Nurses: A Voice to Lead” as its theme for International Nurses Day on May 12, and the sub-theme for 2021 is “A Vision for Future Healthcare.” The ICN regularly posts a wide range of resources to support and raise public awareness about nurses such as case studies, videos, interviews, posters, social media banners, and logos. It is encouraging nurses to share their own stories in case study form this year. It also will release a short film about nursing on International Nurses Day. While recognition efforts such as these are important, Catton said the pandemic has exposed many challenges nurses are facing globally, including staffing shortages, a lack of PPE, stress and mental health challenges, and issues of discrimination and harassment. As the world comes out of the pandemic, nurses must play an important leadership role in confronting those issues, he said. “The pandemic has shown us where these weaknesses or fault lines exist in our health systems,” he said. “Our world has changed and our health systems will need to change as a result of the coronavirus.”
About the Author
John Roszkowski is a freelance writer.
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