National Nurses Week is an opportunity to reflect on the contributions nurses make to the healthcare environment. Every day, nurses make a commitment to building an even more powerful nursing profession to address the complexities of patient care, reshape our workplaces, and influence broader health policies that benefit patients and the public.
This year’s theme, Nurses: Caring Today for a Healthy Tomorrow, is especially relevant for nurses now, given the historic passage of health reform legislation. The reform debate was divisive, but from my perspective this was never a partisan or political issue. It has always been a patient issue. This reform will bring positive changes to our patient’s lives. It will bring greater emphasis on wellness and prevention and it recognizes nurses’ essential role in healthcare delivery. This reform will help nurses create a healthier tomorrow.
Annually, National Nurses Week focuses on highlighting the diverse ways in which registered nurses work to improve health care. Nursing is about expanding and adapting to meet the public’s needs. Now is the time for all nurses to fully embrace and provide a new and even stronger level of leadership—partnering with physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals to direct and manage care effectively.
Today’s nurses must have the strength to care for patients during times of disaster and crisis, the commitment to lifelong learning throughout their careers, and the compassion to provide hands-on patient care at the bedside—as we have done throughout the centuries. Moreover, at 3.1 – 3.6 million strong, nurses represent the largest group of healthcare workers in America, and we have the power to achieve much-needed reform in nursing and in health care. That is why it is important to take time out during National Nurses Week to thank nurses for all we do and to remind the public just how vital our nation’s nurses are to the well-being of society at large.
Of course, giving thanks, recognition, and acknowledgement is only part of the reason we celebrate National Nurses Week every year. Another equally important reason is to remind the public of nursing’s contributions to the health and well-being of the nation. Never miss the chance to educate others as to the critical roles we perform. ANA has been an advocate for safer workplaces—leading efforts for safe patient movement equipment to reduce the risk of on the job injuries for nurses. As nurses, we have been on the front lines of some of the most pressing health issues in the last year, such as the H1N1 pandemic. ANA advocated for better adherence to the standards on protective equipment, educated and encouraged nurses to get immunized, and addressed policy concerns over mandatory vaccinations. ANA has been a strong and consistent voice for reducing exposure to chemicals in the workplace and encourages nurses to work within their environments to find healthy alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals.
The more nurses are engaged and speaking with a united voice, the more influence nursing and its values will have on health care over the next decade. Nurses are experts at knowing what their patients want and need, and always respond to both. That’s the power of nursing. I hope each of you has the opportunity to reflect on the work you do and acknowledge the work done by your nursing colleagues. Recognizing the excellent work done by nurses and inspiring each other to make a difference each and every day is perhaps the best way we may build a healthy tomorrow.
Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR
President, American Nurses Association