Since 1993, National Nurses Week is celebrated each year from May 6 to May 12, culminating in the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. This week is meant to honor the contribution that nurses make to healthcare and society, and traditionally, it is marked by various activities including banquets, state and city proclamations and local media campaigns.
But this week is different. Across the nation, as nurses continue to fight through the worst pandemic of a lifetime with demonstrated grace and strong will, the need for concrete steps and action has never been more apparent.
The year of the nurse.
2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. And in the past couple months, nurses have made sacrifices every day, exemplifying the values and strong will Florence herself set forth. As a result, many are unable to hug their kids, are experiencing job cuts and have had to say one too many goodbyes. The work is stressful, the hours are long and nurses risk their own health as they care for patients infected with a virus that currently lacks any cure or specific treatment.
But the pandemic has highlighted issues that nurses have long been contending with, and many would like to see real appreciation in the form of workplace improvements, as opposed to token gifts. National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S., is using this year’s Nurses Week to demand that nurses receive optimal COVID-19 protection.
“In a year supposedly dedicated to us, we find ourselves in more danger than ever before, as nurses are sent to the front lines to fight COVID-19 without safe personal protective equipment (PPE),” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, in a press release. “This year, we cannot emphasize enough that praise is empty—even insulting—without protections.”
The NNU emphasizes that employers regularly mark this week with pizza parties and donuts, but fail to meet their legal and moral responsibilities as far as “providing safe workplaces by providing optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), safe staffing, presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits and more.”
What can healthcare providers do?
Whether you’re a nurse yourself or if you’re looking to support a colleague, here are some ways you can take action to show your appreciation this week for nurses, nationwide:
- Sign an ongoing petition by 1199SEIU, aimed at fast-tracking PPE for front line providers.
- Sign this MoveOn.Org petition, urging lawmakers to cancel student loan debt for nurses and other healthcare workers leading in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Campaign for Action invites nurses to join efforts in getting more nurses into positions of leadership.
- If you are a nurse serving on a leadership board or want to serve on a board, you can share your information with the Nurses on Board Coalition here and help achieve its goal of getting 10,000 nurses on boards by this year.
Additionally, many companies are offering deals and freebies for nurses:
- For nurses who are stressed or need someone to talk to, TalkSpace is offering a free month of online therapy to nurses and other healthcare workers.
- Nurses with a sweet tooth can take advantage of free cinnamon rolls from Cinnabon or donuts from Krispy Kreme donuts.
- Crocs is donating free pairs of shoes.
- Adidas is offering 40 percent off purchases on their website for verified medical professionals, first responders and nurses.
- Nike is giving medical professionals 20 percent purchases through their online store.
- About Nurses Month, American Nurses Association.
- Celebrating Nightingale 2020 Bicentenary, Nightingale 2020.
- National Nurses Week History, ANA Enterprise.
- National Nurses United Demands Optimal COVID-19 Protections, Honors Fallen Nurses During National Nurses Week, Common Dreams.