Celebrating Nurses Month 2021: ‘You Make a Difference’

For The Second Year, National Nurses Month Has Rep1laced Nurses Week

“It’s about nurses recognizing what they have done and continue to do and how they benefit human kind,” said Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, director of nursing programs and co-lead for Project Firstline in the Department of Nursing Practice & Work Environment at the American Nurses Association (ANA).

“It’s a tribute to what nurses do day in and day out,” said Kim Schwenk, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer and vice president of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “Nurses drive the patient experience, quality and outcomes.”

Kathy English, MSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC, FACHE, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, called nurses “the glue that holds the healthcare team together.”

Nurses Month is “a time to stop and celebrate the contributions of nursing,” English continued. “It is a dedicated time to pause in our ‘busyness’ and say thank you and give back to those who give so freely. It allows the nurses to see their contributions through our eyes. I often tell nurses I hope that you are proud of what you do, because we are!”

Nora Triola, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, chief clinical officer of BAYADA Home Health Care in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, agreed celebrating nurses is important, saying, “Unlike any prior year, in 2020 we all witnessed the difference our nurses made in the lives of our clients as they kept them safe and in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Their compassionate and unwavering care has had an unparalleled impact on health and health care. In fact, that is why the ANA and World Health Organization have extended Nurses Week to Nurses Month throughout May and continued the Year of the Nurse in 2021. These celebrations are a well-earned tribute to nurses everywhere,” Triola added.

About National Nurses Month

In 2020, the ANA grew National Nurses Week—which was traditionally observed from May 6-12—into a month-long tribute to increase the opportunities “to promote the value of nursing and advocate for the profession.” Whether the observance remains a month-long event going forward has not been determined.

ANA has designated focus areas for each week in May, which were developed before the pandemic but have proven appropriate after the COVID-19 surges.

The focus of the first week (May 1-9) is Self-Care, engaging in activities that support nurses’ emotional and physical well-being.

“Nurses do not do that well,” Boston-Leary said. “They pour more into others than themselves.”

Week two (May 10-16) is Recognition, highlighting the vital work nurses perform.

Marian Altman, PhD, RN, CNS-BC, CCRN-K, clinical practice specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses cautioned in an AACN blog that recognition must be “individualized and meaningful” as outlined in the AACN Healthy Work Environment standard.

Week three (May 17-23) is Professional Development, promoting life-long learning. During this week, ANA is offering a free webinar, “Redefining Nursing — Reaffirming Our Practice,” as a gift to the nursing community. It focuses on the latest Scope and Standards of Practice.

Mercy’s education symposium during the third week will showcase the hospital’s nurses’ work and also will have an outside speaker.

And the final week (May 24-31) of Nurses Month focuses on Community Engagement and educating the public.

“Mercy has deep roots in Baltimore,” said Tracey Peñaloza, RN, MSN, CNOR, director of perioperative services at Mercy and leader of the Nurses Month activities. “There are so many organizations we work closely with.”

Nurses at Mercy are collecting food for the Maryland Food Bank and volunteering at Our Daily Bread, a hot meal program. 

During the month of May, nursing students will also celebrate National Student Nurses Day on May 8, and nurses from around the globe will celebrate International Nurses Day on May 12. The American Nurses Credentialling Center will present Magnet and Pathway Nurse of the Year awards on May 14, 2021.

Why it is Important to Celebrate Nurses Month

“We continue to want to lift the profile of the nursing profession, for nurses themselves to appreciate what they contribute to the lives of the people they support and serve, and for the lay public to understand beyond perceptions,” Boston-Leary said.

English added, “Nurses work tirelessly 24/7. They give of themselves to the patients and families they serve and to support the teams that they are a part of.”

“Special weeks are a time for nurses to feel the appreciation that the organization and the team have for what they do every day,” English said. “Often they celebrate their connection to the team and the patients they care for, their accomplishments and milestones.”

Leaders at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston make a “big deal,” recognizing its nurses and the entire care team on all shifts, said Tammy B. Retalic, MS, RN, chief nursing officer for Hebrew SeniorLife and vice president of patient care services for Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.

“We turn it into a real celebration,” Retalic said. “But it’s important to support your team throughout the year.”

How Organizations are Celebrating Nurses Month

Mercy presents the Sisters of Mercy awards in five categories to nurses, nominated by their colleagues, who embody the pillars of Mercy’s values. Peers nominated 130 nurses this year. The awards ceremony will take place virtually in 2021.

The Baltimore hospital has spaced out its events throughout the month, giving out gifts, prizes and fun food when management rounds on the various units. Hospital leadership presents a thank you video for its nurses, which visitors and family members can view.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Schwenk said. “It’s a continuous celebration of what we do every day.”

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha celebrates with a special educational day tailored to nurses, which includes an outside speaker. The hospital also gives nursing awards to an outstanding nurse from each service area.

“We have theme days, like crazy sock day or dress up days—and don’t forget food,” English said. “We also present a special ceremony to bless the hands of nurses.”

BAYADA Home Health Care is hosting a “What’s Your Wish” giveaway where nurses can enter to win one of five themed kit options, from April 29 through May 12. A total of 50 winners will be selected. Each kit contains activities and gifts to plan the perfect staycation, run a smart home, and enjoy tranquility time, among other themes.

Hebrew SeniorLife recognizes floor champions in a Salute to Nurses in the Boston Globe and on social media, nurses present projects they have worked on, the chaplain offers blessings, a physician plays guitar, night nurses can receive hand and neck massages. The organization also involves its donors in its nursing recognition celebration.

“It’s important for nurses to celebrate themselves,” Boston-Leary said. “Because it is such hard and busy work, we tend to forget how we impact people’s lives. We are with people during the best times of their lives and the worse times of their lives, and they remember us.”

What are your plans for Nurses Month 2021? Take steps to celebrate your profession and all of the things you do to care for patients and improve the health of the nation. 

AMN Healthcare is celebrating all of the hard-working nurses across the U.S. throughout the month of May, including our own talented travel nurses. Our entire team would like to say: “THANK YOU, nurses, for all that you do—every day of the year. You truly make a difference!”

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