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Professional Insights

Top Nurse Organizations Share Their Plans To Celebrate Nurses

A look at plans for Nurses Month and International Nurses Day

By John Roszkowski
he COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a growing nationwide nursing shortage and other challenges, has placed an unprecedented burden on the nursing workforce.
But with the worst of the COVID-19 crisis hopefully in the rearview mirror, nurses can take a little time to reflect on all they’ve done and achieved. The American Nurses Association’s Nurses Month activities in May and the International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) International Nurses Day celebration on May 12 provide opportunities to recognize nurses for their dedication and to look forward to the many challenges that still lie ahead.
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Nurses Make a Difference

The American Nurses Association has once again chosen the theme “Nurses Make a Difference” for its 2022 Nurses Month celebration. The theme was chosen to honor the varying roles of nurses and the positive impact they have on the lives of patients and families and in shaping healthcare policy. For many years, the ANA celebrated National Nurses Week in May, but expanded it to Nurses Month a couple of years ago to reach more nurses, according to Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, Director of Nursing Programs for the ANA. The month-long celebration will include different weekly focuses and activities. The first week, which runs May 1-7, will focus on self-care and promoting physical and mental well-being. Boston-Leary said self-care is a very important issue for nurses because of the stress and challenges nurses have faced due to the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing staffing shortages, adding, “A lot of nurses don’t engage enough in self-care and how it benefits them, and that’s why we thought it was important to highlight it.” Healthcare systems and employers also need to do more to support nurses’ mental health and wellness by destigmatizing mental health issues, providing more accessible resources to address those issues, and creating a positive work culture for their employees, according to Boston-Leary.
— Katie Boston-Leary, RN
“A lot of nurses don’t engage enough in self-care and how it benefits them, and that’s why we thought it was important to highlight it.”
During the first week in May, Boston-Leary said some of their sponsors from the ANA’s Healthy Nurses, Healthy Nation campaign will be providing nurse appreciation gifts and are planning other activities to recognize nurses and the importance of self-care. The second week of the campaign, which runs May 8-14, will focus on nurse recognition, a way to say, “Thank you, nurses,” and to honor nurses who are innovators or leaders in healthcare. The third week, May 15-21, will focus on nurses’ professional development, while the final week, May 22-31, will highlight community engagement and volunteer activities that nurses are doing in their communities. Perhaps the most prominent event the ANA will be hosting during Nurses Month is the “You Make a Difference — Live Nurses Event,” a free virtual celebration and story-telling session on May 18. The online event, which will be led by award-winning documentary filmmaker Carolyn Jones, will include opportunities for nurses to share their stories and celebrate the nursing profession. Boston-Leary said the ANA and other nursing organizations will also seek to draw attention to important issues facing the nursing profession during the month, including the nationwide nursing shortage, incidences of workplace violence, and physical and mental health issues affecting nurses. “All of these things were issues before COVID, but they were exacerbated during the pandemic, and it’s really put a spotlight on what’s impacting the profession,” she said. Racism in nursing and the need to address the concerns of nurses of color are another focus issue during Nurses Month and throughout the year, according to Boston-Leary. A recent survey by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing found that more than 60% of nurses said they had personally experienced or witnessed an act of racism in nursing, either by patients or fellow staff members. She said the commission is expected to release some of its recommendations in May to address racism in the nursing workplace. “It’s an important issue, and it can’t wait so we need to be willing and able to take it on,” said Boston-Leary.

Respect for Nurses’ Rights

Global organizations also are putting a spotlight on nursing issues in May. Howard Catton, CEO of the International Council of Nurses, said the theme for International Nurses Day this year is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead — Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health.” Each year, ICN leads celebrations on International Nurses Day, May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Catton said this year’s campaign recognizes the need for countries around the world to include more nurses in more leadership positions, not just in health care, and give them a greater voice on other important policy issues such as climate change and COVID-19. “We hope we’re moving to the end of the pandemic and all countries are looking to build back strongly from the pandemic and that includes investing in the nursing workforce,” he said. Another major focus of this year’s international campaign is on protecting nurse rights and respect for nursing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Catton said there were many examples of nurses and healthcare workers’ rights not being respected or protected, such as a lack of adequate PPE, gross inequities in access to vaccines, and nurses being subjected to physical or verbal attacks by anti-vaxxers.
“We hope we’re moving to the end of the pandemic and all countries are looking to build back strongly from the pandemic and that includes investing in the nursing workforce.”
— Howard Catton
The recent war in Ukraine where nurses and healthcare workers are in danger from Russian bombings of healthcare facilities is another example of the need to protect nurse rights and safety, according to Catton. Nurses’ rights are also being violated in other countries such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, according to ICN. “That call for nurses’ rights and human rights is really something we want to reflect in our campaign,” he said. “Without a doubt, nurses rights and healthcare worker rights are human rights.” Catton said the international community is hosting a number of events and activities in May to raise awareness of the importance of nursing. Westminster Abbey will host an annual celebration with the Florence Nightingale Foundation on May 11 to celebrate nursing, midwifery, and other healthcare workers, which will be attended by ICN president. And for the first time, Aster Healthcare will be awarding a $250,000 prize for nursing innovation to an outstanding performer in the field of nursing during its Global Nursing Awards in Dubai on May 12. The ICN has also launched a compilation of case studies submitted by nurses across the world to highlight some of the incredible work nurses do every day. Catton said the BBC is producing a series of short films on the project, one of which is expected to be broadcast on International Nurses Day.
John Roszkowski is a freelance writer and editor. He has more than 25 years of editorial experience having previously worked as a news reporter, content manager, and editor for magazines, business and healthcare blogs, and other online publications.