May 6, 2012

cinnabonUnless you’re a nurse, work in a health care institution where there are nurses, work at Cinnabon, a card shop or flower shop, or a company that prints messages on pens, water bottles or other tchotchkes,  this week could happily pass you by without knowing its National Nurses Week.

In searching for the history of how this came about, you can find this exact sentence in almost every post, “In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a “Nurse Day”..)  That never happened. I tried to find out more about Ms. Sutherland to no avail. Wonder if one of you may know more about her.  There are too many Dorothy Sutherland’s on Facebook and LinkedIn and nothing came up on my Google search.

Fast forward to 1974 when the International Council of Nurses proclaimed International Nurse Day on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. In 1990, the American Nurses Association decided it should be a whole week  beginning on May 6 and ending on May 12. We now have National Student Nurses Day too.

This is the week you’ll hear about the Gallop Poll results that show when you ask Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of numerous professions nurses make the top of the list every year since except in 2001 when firefighters were included on a one-time basis after 9/11. They’ve been polling since 1976 and the profession of nursing was added in 1999. We’ve come along way baby.

So we’re trusted (that’s good news).  Let’s leverage that trust and our smarts and expertise to get a seat at the policy table and into other stakeholder positions working to create quality and cost-effective health care that is accessible to all Americans.

How about we take action and unite to tell our colleagues and employers to thank us in different way this year and going forward. Tell them (graciously) that you don’t need another pen, water bottle or tote bag with the institution’s name on it. Ask them to use the dedicated budget (plus more $$$) to financially support the work of your state’s Action Coalition and the Campaign for Action to implement the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine’s report on The Future of Nursing.

Now that’s a proclamation I can sign.

Barbara Glickstein is the co-director of the Center.