16 Reasons EVERY Week Should be National Nurses Week
Nurses are absolute heroes. These widely-trusted professionals put the heart into healthcare. Nurses work with people who are experiencing some of their worst moments, and they’ve seen it all. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, or to pitch in when others would stand back. They are allies for their patients, and the healthcare industry would be utterly lost without them.
So, this National Nurses Week, honor the nurses in your community. And remember that they do their incredible work all year long, so there’s no need to limit your appreciation to just one week.
We connected with nurses and healthcare experts to give you a more-detailed look at what nurses are doing, on the frontline and behind the scenes. Read on, and say thank you to a nurse in your life.
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16 reasons to celebrate nurses year-round
1. They pay attention and think fast
Nurses are on the frontlines of healthcare. They pay close attention to their patients and listen carefully, even when they have a million other things to do. On top of that, healthcare facilities rely on nurses to notice when something is wrong—and to act.
“Nurses are problem solvers. They think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to difficult situations,” says Iyan Omoragbon, APRN and FNP at WithCare Telehealth.
“I really realized the scope of what nurses handle when I was working in the emergency room.” Omoragbon says. He saw a patient come in with a severe allergic reaction, jumped into action and administered treatment, saving the patient’s life.
While conducting his daily rounds one day, Steven Brick, Administrator at Family of Caring at Tenafly noticed a commotion down the hall. One of the residents had flat-lined and needed CPR.
“As I looked into the room I saw one of my veteran nurses working and guiding one of our new nurses on the process to bring the resident back to life. Both nurses were sweating profusely trying to resuscitate the resident, completely focused.” Brick says their obvious expertise and dedication in a crisis was a powerful reminder of how prepared nurses are to save lives at a moment’s notice.
2. They’re extremely smart
Nurses need to maintain high standards of clinical excellence, no matter how many things are on their plates. “Our nurses are highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who are committed to continuous learning,” Brick says. “They stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in nursing and healthcare, and they apply this knowledge to their daily practice.”
Nurses might administer medications, monitor vital signs, perform diagnostic tests, and manage complex medical conditions for multiple patients at a time, while also paying attention to patients’ emotional states, while also fielding administrative requests and making sure patients get that extra blanket or cup of ice water.
Holding all of that information, medical knowledge and compassion at once, and being ready to drop everything and save a life when needed takes a pretty powerful brain.
3. Their care goes beyond medical
Nurses provide above-and-beyond compassionate care in ways other medical professionals can’t, according to Christine Kingsley, APRN and health and wellness director of the Lung Institute. “As the first point of contact for patients, not only do we treat and assess physical symptoms but we also address their emotional and psychological needs.”
Nurses listen to their patient’s concerns, help manage anxieties and create a more caring environment that acknowledges the full humanity of their patients. “Our role in patients’ healthcare, no matter how big or small, can make a real difference in their lives.”
4. They make sacrifices to prioritize patients
Imagine committing to 12-hour-long night shifts that change around through the month. Nancy Mitchell, RN and contributing writer at Assisted Living points out that your circadian rhythm gets thrown out of balance from constant shift changes, making those long hours on your feet pretty tough.
“Not to mention the extra sessions you’d pull if your colleague has an emergency and misses their shift exchange,” Mitchell says. It takes lots of emotional fortitude for nurses to keep showing up ready for their work.
5. They see their share of sickness & death
“Sometimes, you witness suffering in its cruelest form,” says Ashley Perez MSN, RN and writer at HealthCanal. Nurses see heartbreaking or even traumatizing cases that can be hard to detach from emotionally.
“One of the most challenging aspects of nursing is to see people dying and not have the power to stop it.” Perez says. Thriving in the nursing world means finding resources to help manage the toll this can take—another thing nurses have on their plates.
6. They step in to fill gaps in care
Nurses are often a point of contact between physicians, healthcare staff, pharmacies, family members and patients. When something is falling between the cracks, nurses are most likely to notice and respond.
“When a nurse starts the shift, there are many tasks that need to be done,” Perez explains. Whether that’s administering medications, wound care, making calls or trying to accommodate patient requests for snacks. “Nurses that will stop to help a patient with a minor request are truly amazing because that kindness is truly beautiful.”
7. Their job is really more like…many jobs
“Nurses advocate for patients, for the health and safety of the general public, and for the needs and wants of nurses,” says RN and author, Latoya Smith. “We also innovate by improving processes, improving care, developing nurse practice solutions, creating new models of care, creating safety practices, and more.”
“Nurses are the ultimate multi-taskers,” says Brian Clark, RN, and CEO of United Medical Education. “They have to be ready to adapt to new situations constantly.”
8. They sacrifice nights/weekends/holidays
While the rest of us relax and enjoy the holidays we find meaningful, nurses sacrifice their own celebrations to care for others. Hospitals, long-term care facilities and many other healthcare institutions stay open 24/7, 365 days a year. And nurses are there, rain or shine, even on holidays.
9. They are patient advocates
Healthcare facilities are busy places, with lots of critical work underway at all times. That hustle can make it hard for patients to get their voices heard. “By being strong advocates for patients, nurses amplify patients’ voices and protect their rights,” Kingsley says.
She adds that the majority of patient outcomes and patient satisfaction rates are connected to the role of nurses.
10. They are educators
As primary communicators to patients, nurses are often in a teaching position. “They provide necessary information and resources to help individuals make informed decisions about their health, while also educating them on how to prevent illnesses and injuries,” says Dr. David Seitz, medical director at Ascendant Detox.
“Nurses also play an important role in promoting health education among staff members, patients, and the community.”
11. They are patient and professional under pressure
Nurses care for patients who are going through difficult and traumatic experiences, Kingsley points out. Patients and their loved ones are often experiencing some of the worst days of their lives. “This calls us to be understanding of their frustrations, fear, and anger,” Kingsley says. She adds that nurses face inappropriate behavior and even verbal abuse at times, which can take a toll.
“However, none of that compares to the rewards of providing care for patients and bringing them back to health.”
12. They keep everyone in sync
Nurses act as the liaison for many different groups of people. “You must be effectively communicating with the multiple hospitalist doctors, nurse practitioners, and specialists working on the patient,” says Joanna Briggs RN and nurse consultant at Jugofeed. “Concurrently, you are communicating with the family and attending to their emotional needs.”
Briggs adds that nurses also need to communicate with each other, assist when needed and jump into emergency situations. “Nurses truly embody patient care on multiple levels.”
13. They stay on their toes every shift
Every day as a nurse is full of new things to learn. “It is very difficult to fall into a consistent routine as a nurse, especially if you are working in a high stress environment like the ER,” Clark says. He adds that you might feel totally on top of everything you need to handle in one moment, then face a dizzying complication the next.
“You have to adapt and perform quickly. Someone is always depending on you.”
14. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty
Nurses clean every type of bodily fluid and are exposed to viruses, pathogens and more.
You’ve heard the medical horror stories. While most people would panic or run from the room, nurses just roll up their sleeves and engage.
15. They put their heart on the line
Many nurses chose the professions because they have big hearts and a passion for helping others. This quality is part of the heart of nursing—relational care that patients can rely on when a nurse walks in the room.
But that relational element can hurt. “It can be difficult to witness the suffering of patients and their families, and it can be hard to stay emotionally detached from the situation,” Omoragbon says. When nurses build connections with patients who are dying or in pain, the emotional cost is real.
16. They are passionate about what they do
People tend to become nurses because they are passionate about helping others. And in nursing, that passion is both technical and relational. “When I entered the workforce, the reality of what it meant to be a nurse hit me like a cold blast of air in the face in December,” Smith says. It was intense to suddenly need to advocate for patients, manage time, build relationships and work in a team while applying all her medical knowledge.
“While it was most definitely a lot, I found great mentors and always took opportunities to learn. It’s been 15 years and I still love being a nurse!”
Take time to celebrate nurses during National Nurses Week!
There’s no denying it—nurses are incredible, and they deserve respect, praise and appreciation this National Nurses Week. Their work changes lives. Nurses make healthcare a better place for patients, patient families and their healthcare colleagues.
Think you might have what it takes to join their ranks? Check out our article to find out, "Would I Be a Good Nurse? 11 Questions to Ask Yourself."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2023.