Each year, National Nurses Week brings celebrations across the United States. But within that week is an important reminder of the work that nurses do across the globe, under varying conditions, with dramatically different equipment, but with the same steely determination to protect the health of the people they care for.
This year, International Nurses’ Day is celebrated on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, as many know, is considered an early healthcare innovator who founded modern nursing practices and helped shape nursing to such an extent that her influence remains to this day. Nightingale’s passion for aiding the ill and injured and keeping nursing practices focused on sanitation helped saves lives of those in her care and countless lives today.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) sponsors the day and has designated this year’s theme as “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Nurses around the world can participate and unite their nursing voices by using the hashtags #VoiceToLead and #IND2017 in their social media posts.
The SDGs are a collection of more than 17 goals that impact nurses and the care they provide. The health inequities experienced by people around the world result from a mix of factors, but all impact the sustainable development issues facing nurses today. The issues range from ending poverty (that’s goal number one) to improving health and education and fighting climate change.
In honor of International Nurses’ Day, which debuted in 1965, the ICN is providing case studies from nurses across the globe—for instance there’s the story about addressing COPD in China to reducing the HIV stigma in Zambia.
For nurses who are interested in finding out more or adding their voice to the international nursing community, a Resources and Evidence toolkit is available for download.
According to the International Council of Nurses website, the organization “is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.”
Instead of ingesting sugary treats to celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), consider pursuing activities to feed your spirit or mind instead.
1. If you are feeling artistic and need to relax, why not color?
There are several nurse coloring book pages you can download, draw and post to social media, thanks to the Madison School of Healthcare, where stories from nurses were turned into art. The pages cover familiar scenarios, from amusing night shift shenanigans to a heartfelt scene of chipping in for a patient. You can download all here. Want to share your work? Showcase your drawing on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtags #NursesWeek and #ColoringWithNurses.
2. If drawing is not your thing, consider a massage.
Here’s the rub: don’t wait for the weekend. Get a massage in the middle of the week. Sometimes you have to yield to whim! So instead of a second helping of cake to celebrate the fabulousness of being a nurse, imagine the sensation of your aches and stresses being kneaded away. Yes, put down the dessert and go ink in a well-deserved massage appointment.
3. Another way to treat yourself is to curl up with a book written by one of your hardworking peers.
Consider these offerings:
- Josephine Ensign, Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net
- William Rosa (editor), Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership
- Alexandra Robbins, The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital
- Lee Gutkind (editor), I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse
- James Kelly, Where Night is Day: The World of the ICU
- Laurie Barkin, The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit
- Cortney Davis, The Heart’s Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing
- Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing: What it Is, and What it Is Not
Good nurses deserve a break. Make the time to show yourself some appreciation!
Whether it’s a child who fell on the playground or a teen who is undergoing cancer treatment, school nurses see it all. As children are able to attend school with more and increasingly complex medical conditions, school nurses are on the front lines of monitoring, assisting, and advocating for schoolchildren across the nation.
So on May 10, National School Nurse Day, take a few moments to thank a school nurse in your life or in your community. The theme this year is “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Students” to highlight how much school nurses do to improve the health within their communities and how they are excellent and inspiring role models for the students and families who rely on their care.
“The needs of our students are increasing daily and school nurses want to meet those needs so that students have the opportunity to succeed in the classroom to prepare for a healthy and successful future,” says Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN, and president of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) which created National School Nurse Day in 1972. “School nurses are on the front lines of population health.”
It’s no secret that kids who are healthy in body and mind will perform better in school and have more engaging and satisfying school experiences. “Schools have an energy and vitality about them where children and teens bring untapped potential,” says Mattey. A school nurse is there to offer medical care, but is often a comfort, a cheerleader, a family advocate, and a health care provider experienced with complex and diverse healthcare conditions and needs.
“School nurses have long provided a hidden health care, often working as the only health care provider in the education setting,” says Mattey. “As the needs of our students are growing, the contribution school nurses bring to health AND education of students as a member of the health care team and the education team is increasingly being recognized and valued.”
According to Mattey, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that the incidence of children with chronic health conditions are increasing. The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health says 27.3 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 30.8 percent of teens age 12 to 17 have a chronic health condition. And for many children, their health struggles are compounded by additional factors. “Across the nation, fifteen million children live in poverty,” she says, “and almost 46 million children receive supplemental nutrition assistance. “
And with so many shifting factors, school nurses are seeing steep increases in issues like anxiety than did school nurses of a couple of generations ago. Mattey explains how almost 23 percent of children have been exposed to two or more adverse childhood events which can affect one’s physical and mental health. “School nurses report they spend at least 32 percent of their time addressing mental health needs of students,” says Mattey.
And as laying a foundation for a healthy life begins during the school years, Mattey says this is a great time to help influence healthy choices and behaviors. “For 14 years I worked with teens in our high school to reduce the use of tobacco,” she says. “We developed posters and shared the message across the state through music. We reduced tobacco use by 51 percent in our high school.” Other school nurses work with students in physical activity programs and programs to promote healthy eating.
“It is incredibly fulfilling when we help a child and family manage a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes, or allergies and remain in school,” says Mattey. “School nurses want students healthy, safe, and ready to learn.”
And with school nurses in so many communities, their membership has a powerful base. NASN has 16,000 members in 50 affiliates and overseas who advocate for school children, their communities, and the national health of children.
On National School Nurse Day, acknowledging the complex and essential role school nurses play in both an educational and a community setting is important. “On May 10, school nurses will continue to care for students as they always do,” says Mattey. “This day perhaps, we will walk with an extra spring in our step knowing that the knowledge and expertise we bring to our students and community makes a difference in the lives of our students every day.”
Get ready to kick off National Nurses Week! This annual event to recognize the compassionate and critical work nurses perform and to celebrate the profession begins tomorrow, May 6 and lasts until May 12.
The week provides time to honor the role of nurses in their own lives and in the collective national landscape.
This year’s theme: Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit reflects the American Nurses Association’s designation of 2017 as the Year of the Healthy Nurse. The theme points to the delicate and essential equilibrium that nurses must find to successfully thrive in such a distinctly unique profession.
National Nurses Week is marked throughout the nation in all kinds of settings—from healthcare settings to nursing schools.
Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman says the week offers a chance to celebrate nurses and to also take a look at where the profession is going.
Vanderbilt, which has both a medical center and a nursing school, has events including a blessing of the hands and a state of nursing address by the chief nursing officer. There are awards to recognize outstanding nurses and a dean’s diversity lecture that will examine how the nursing profession as a whole can meet the needs of a diverse population.
At the nursing school, where more than 900 students take classes, there will be several versions of birthday parties for Florence Nightingale whose birthday is marked every May 12.
“We are having an ice cream social for the students just to say, ‘We’re glad you’ve chosen nursing and this is our way of celebrating nurses,’” says Norman.
Here are a few ideas to celebrate National Nurses Week either with colleagues, family, friends, or by yourself:
Have a party
Nurses deserve to have someone else take care of them, so having a reception at work or meeting for lunch with your nurse friends offers time to stop and celebrate.
If you supervise other nurses, be sure to thank them for all they do. They are the front lines of patient care and perform superhuman feats each day.
Spread the word about the ANA’s free webinar “A Nurse’s Guide to Preventing Compassion Fatigue, Moral Distress, and Burnout” on May 10 at 1 pm EDT (registration closes on May 9 at 7 pm EDT).
Between May 12 and May 17, you may also view the free webinar recording of “Empathy 101: How to Care for Yourself While Emotionally Supporting Others,” offered by Nurse.com at http://ce.nurse.com/course/Web332 . The webinar features Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN.
As Norman says, the week also offers a time for nurses to consider the journey that brought them to where they are. Norman says she is frequently reminded of her own journey.
“It is a time for us to reflect on the choice we made back when we were deciding on our profession,” she says. “To be able to try to meet the needs of others—that’s a privilege. To teach others how to do that—that’s an even bigger privilege.”
Think about the last time you visited a hospital or doctor’s office. Chances are, it was the nurse who offered support, comfort, or answered your questions. Nurses handle a lot of responsibility every day. Unfortunately, shouldering that responsibility is stressful. Research has found that 38.4% of registered nurses over the age of 30 experience burnout and feelings of frustration, anger, and irritation. For registered nurses under the age of 30, the percentage rises to 43.6%.
It’s evident that nurses are feeling the pressures of providing the best care possible for their patients. So, as we honor our nurses during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, it’s important to remember that the greatest gift you can give yourself while you care for others is to take the time to care for yourself. An important step in self-care is controlling stress.
When you feel stress working overtime on your well-being, here are five ways to control the dangers of stress before it controls you.
1. Get organized.
In an environment dictated by the need to react, nurses have to deal with many interruptions, many of which can’t be helped. “However, there are many interruptions that are not so important,” Catherine Bynes says. “Interruptions like long non-work related chats with other staff members, checking non-work email, or other non-essential tasks can get you off track quickly.” Taking as little as fifteen minutes before your shift begins makes a big difference in examining the day.
2. Be physically fit.
Let’s be honest; Are nurses really short on exercise? However, working on your feet all day does require some relief. “We bring in a massage therapist for students and staff every few weeks where they can receive a 15-minute neck and upper back massage,” says Julie Aiken, CEO of Ameritech College of Healthcare. She added that faculty and staff could participate in weekly yoga sessions, daily group walks, and both students and staff are encouraged to use essential oils to help with stress relief.
3. Get some quality sleep.
At this very moment, a resounding “hah” is rippling through the throngs of nursing students. Quality sleep? Not in this world. But the need for restful sleep has a profound effect on your health and work performance. Experts suggest creating a nightly routine that prepares your body for relaxation and rest. Don’t load up on snacks or caffeine, and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. If stressful thoughts keep you up at night, the American Nurses Association says to keep a notebook by your bed. If anxiety is keeping you awake, write those feelings down and let them go until morning.
4. Improve communication skills.
Poor listening or communication skills leads to misunderstandings and mistakes, which almost always results in chaos and stressful situations. Studies show that, yes, you do have time to concentrate your attention on a physician’s or coworker’s instructions or a patient’s concerns.
Good communication improves the quality of care provided to patients. “The best expertise training and continuing education of nurses in matters relating to the proper technique of communications will enable them to respond adequately and humanely to the expectations of patients,” Dr. Lambrini Kourkouta, and Ioanna V. Papathanasiou, RN, MSc, PhD, conclude in a study published by the National Institutes of Health. By reducing the risks of mishaps caused by miscommunication, nurses can experience increased levels of satisfaction in their work.
5. Keep things in perspective.
It’s been a bad day. Not a bad life, or a bad world, or even a bad career choice. When bad things happen, it’s tempting to allow those feelings to take over your entire day—but, don’t.
People depend on you for your knowledge, abilities, patience, and empathy. So when those feelings of discouragement settle in, it’s time to divert them. In a profession that requires constant caring for others, leadership expert Dan Rockwell says to let someone care for you for a change. “Hang with positive people or schedule time to do more of what you love.”
Every health care facility relies on its nursing staff to keep the doors open, so while today may have been rough, or the lessons from the latest mistake may be painful, you are providing a service that keeps the health care process moving.
As we celebrate National Nurses Week, let’s develop healthy habits that will sustain us long after the celebration is over. By developing strong organizational and communicative habits, and maintaining physical and mental toughness, we can reduce the strains of stress while contributing a healthy dose of excellence to our profession.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Two heads are better than one”? Well, it’s now a proven fact that working with others to resolve an issue is more productive than trying to figure it out on your own.
Professional fields, such as public health, value intradisciplinary teamwork as well as interdisciplinary teamwork. Through collaboration, innovation often emerges to address complex health issues.
But why does this matter for public health as compared to other fields? Let’s take a step back to understand what health actually is.
WHO’s Definition of Health Goes beyond Mere Physical Health
One of the first things we learn in the field of public health is the definition of health. In its 1948 constitution, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
This definition takes a holistic view of health, not just the absence of bodily diseases. It implies that health encompasses multiple layers, such as one’s social well-being.
The Relationship of Health and Multiple Influences on Health
How does this definition of health align with the influences on health as described in the socio-ecological framework? The socio-ecological framework illustrates that there are multiple levels of influences on our health, ranging from:
- Intrapersonal/individual factors (genetics)
- Interpersonal factors (culture, family and values)
- Organizational factors (faith-based organizations, schools and community organizations)
- Community influences (neighborhood and healthcare)
- Public policy (laws, media and the food industry)
These influences extend beyond the core public health disciplines of behavioral science/health education, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology and health services administration. As public health practitioners, our need to learn and collaborate with other disciplines is paramount.
For instance, interprofessional education and practice can work together to address a specific public health issue like obesity.
Parents and other family members can influence a child’s dietary habits and physical activity. A public health practitioner can consider these collaborations as opportunities.
- How can we work with social workers to understand family dynamics and intervene to promote healthy habits?
- What is the role of sociologists, psychologists or anthropologists in understanding culture and values contributing to healthy habits?
Access to fresh fruits and vegetables can influence one’s ability to eat healthy and prevent obesity. A public health practitioner interested in addressing obesity trends in a particular community ought to consider the following:
- How can we work with local schools to incorporate a school garden, so that children learn how to grow healthy fruits and vegetables?
- What is the role of local religious leaders in promoting healthy lifestyles in their houses of worship?
“Place” matters as the PBS series “Unnatural Causes” eloquently shows. Where an individual lives, works or plays either limits or promotes opportunities for healthy habits (e.g. safety of neighborhoods or easy access to healthy food options).
- How do public health practitioners work with local/city officials and law enforcement to address security issues or other matters affecting healthy activities, like walking or running?
- What is the role of parks and recreation services in ensuring amenities for healthy lifestyles?
Easy access to health care services is a well-known contributor to healthy behaviors. Access to health and health insurance is aligned with socio-economic status. Lower socio-economic status also correlates with obesity trends (for example, cheaper food products are often high in calories and less nutritious).
- How does a public health practitioner work with policy makers to address access to healthy foods for lower socio-economic groups?
- How can we work with the food industry to address childhood obesity?
Even if you are not a public health practitioner, I encourage you to think about how what you do can affect the health and well-being of individuals, communities, nations and the world. Consider also what you can do to support public health initiatives to promote wellness and prevent diseases at all levels of influence, according to the socio-ecological framework.