Can We Kill Nurses Week? Please?

Another year and another dreadful Nurses Week approaches. You know, that time of year when nurses are supposed to get all Glad and Bursting with Happiness at our chosen Profession — sort of like Christmas for nurses, except far less cheerful and filled with people you wouldn’t invite into your front hallway. But at the level of employment, anyway, Nurses Week has devolved into a vehicle for management to show its respect and gratitude for its nursing staff. The trouble is, nursing management is generally clueless about how to thank nurses. My jaw literally fell open when I had one usually savvy manager tell me, in all seriousness, that Acme Regional showed respect and thanks for its nurses by paying us, when I thought, incredibly, they paid us because they wanted us to show up for work. Silly me. Obviously there’s a problem here.

Even without seeing a calendar of events I know

  • the schedule itself will be called “Nurses’ Week Events and Festivities,” which implies, at the very least, a joyful celebration of accomplishment, excellence and maybe even fireworks.
  • there will be a “special guest speaker” at some point during the week, who will be scheduled to lecture at a time nearly impossible for front-line nurses to realistically attend, even if they got permission to leave the floor for an hour, and on a topic having absolutely no relevance to their practice — but managers will enthuse over.
  • the local union will put a dinner at Al’s Fish Fry Factory and Spaghettoria clear across the city which no one will attend except ten stewards and a confused respiratory therapist.
  • the Auxillary will cart around free coffee for the nurses (one only please!) on either Monday morning or Wednesday afternoon. In a small-size  styrofoam cup.
  • the hospital president will write an open letter which will contain each of  the phrases “compassionate and caring”, “management team” and “together we will succeed”.
  • a gift basket donated by a local business will be raffled, mostly because it’s a leftover from the Silent Auction fundraiser, and therefore “free”.
  • various managerial types will wander aimlessly through the hospital giving out warm fuzzies.
  • there will be some sort of  “gift bag” — though I use the term in its loosest sense. One year we got (I kid you not!) a homemade bookmark and a 15 cc bottle of hand lotion. The bookmarks were created by the Volunteer Auxiliary as “their gift to nurses”.  Last year we got pens donated by a cut-rate, generic pharmaceutical company, which stopped working in ten minutes, and a little laminated card outlining emergency procedures. (“In case of bomb threat, nurses will search their units for suspicious packages.” Like gift bags from management?)

I would like to think management believes sincerely believes Nurses Week is a great morale booster. I do understand there are budget constraints — though in a world of catered lunches and embiggened CEO salaries this argument is harder to make. But it’s hard to imagine a timetable of events more dispiriting to the practice of nursing, more meaningless and insulting to nurses, or more transparently self-serving for management. It sends the unmistakable signal of exactly how much hospital administrations value their nurses — and if your schedule of events resembles mine, it isn’t much. And the funny thing is, it’s been nearly the same story in every place I’ve worked. We’re served turds for Nurses Week and told they’re gold nuggets.

I don’t need this kind damage to my self esteem. It’s time to kill Nurses Week. Drive a stake through its cynical heart. Nurses deserve much better.

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  1. #1 by nat on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1138

    Love it! So True!

  2. #2 by Danielle on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1141

    My previous hospitals were pretty good – free meals, something (shirt/jacket/bag) emblazoned with the hospital/system logo, etc. Here however they give us work to do – there are volunteer slots at a local not for profit, an essay contest, and this year each unit is responsible for making a basket to send to our “sister” unit. Oh, and don’t forget those free CEUs! If you can get away for a couple hours, there are free continuing education units.

  3. #3 by Anne Silva on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1222

    Brilliant, simply brilliant!

    I think the most meaningful gift was the bookmark from the volunteers! It would mean more to me than a gift basket from management!

    Great blog. Thanks!

  4. #4 by JennJilks on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1724

    Every year the ladies fundamentalist Christian prayer group would bake the school staff cookies on Teacher’s Day (we didn’t get a week – might go to our heads!). It was accompanied by a Christian Hallmark card, dripping with Christ’s blood, ‘He sacrificed for us’, and telling us that they were praying for all of us!

  5. #5 by wilomis on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1956

    ummm.. sooooo, if you don’t want the book mark….. can I have it?

    • #6 by torontoemerg on Friday 07 May 2010 - 2358

      It’s yours… but it has a little old lady look to it that might make your friends laugh at you.

  6. #7 by wilomis on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 1956

    PS this post was a laugh out loud one

  7. #8 by mizpahlouise on Thursday 06 May 2010 - 2037

    Great post! Funny but so true..

  8. #9 by deBeauxOs on Friday 07 May 2010 - 1132

    Nurses Week has become a festival of glurge and an opportunity for institutions who do NOT, in practical and real terms value their nursing staff, to play “let’s pretend” as an exercice in medial/public relations.

  9. #10 by Luke on Sunday 09 May 2010 - 0822

    It’s always either a free pen light, one of those zip line things for your ID badge to clip on your scrubs or a lanyard. Please hospitals, don’t bother! You would never see a ‘physician’s week’ happen, although the new OMA campaign is painfully close.

  10. #11 by Scrubs on Tuesday 11 May 2010 - 1709

    Sad but true Nurses Week has turned into Secretary’s Day, but for some nurses (especially those at private practices) the “festivities” still mean something. I guess it is the same difference as working for a family business instead of a corporation.

  11. #12 by zoe baily on Tuesday 11 May 2010 - 1851

    For nurses week my hospital distributed to the units/floors HUGE baskets containing bodywash & deodorants! There must have been a swell of outrage because later management had to send out an email to nursing staff to explain . The hospital did not spend any $$ on the “gifts” the gifts were donated by xx company. Ohh, that makes me feel better. Next year—vomit bags donated by the airline company. Management you’re the BEST!

    • #13 by torontoemerg on Tuesday 11 May 2010 - 1902

      I’ve been searching all week for the best phrase to describe all of this, and I think “tone deaf” just about covers it.

  12. #14 by Allison on Thursday 13 May 2010 - 0705

    Nurses week? Seriously? Why are nurses being recognized for “doing their job.” Don’t we all go to work to “do our job?” Most nurses I know expect something for nurses week. If they don’t get something they get all bent out of shape. How is the gift considered a token of appreciation when nurses are expecting the gift and are mad if they don’t get it. If I were a nurse I’d feel inferior to other employees who don’t need gifts to do their job well. Nurses are like special ed kids who need extra attention to do a good job. They need to be stroked and rewarded to keep them on track. It’s sad.

    • #15 by Anne Silva on Thursday 13 May 2010 - 1118

      Allison…you bring up a few good points.

      1. We all go to work to do our jobs.

      2. What’s the point of expecting a gift for nurses week and then get all bent out of shape when you don’t get one.

      Now to bring up your “not so good” points. :)

      To say the nurses are like special ed kids who need extra attention to do a good job and they need to be stroked and rewarded to do a good job, is ignorant. I don’t know of too many jobs where you have to give of yourself as a nurse does or any profession where you “take care” of people who are vunerable, demand much at times and also, a profession where “verbal and physical abuse” from those you take care of, is normal. It’s a very demanding profession not only physically but emotionally. A profession that is high in injury and burn out. A profession that has uncommon hours and schedules that aren’t very easily accomodated in order to be available for weekends and evenings with families and friends at times.

      Yes, nurses like to be recognized, by their employers because it is usually their employers that sometimes makes it difficult for them to execute their jobs properly and yes, sometimes make it difficult to mesh home life with work life.

      Personally, I derive my satisfaction of “nurses week” by recognizing my peers and by fostering an enviorment of appreciation amongst ourselves.

      By the way Allision, what is it you do for a living, if I may ask?

    • #16 by torontoemerg on Friday 14 May 2010 - 0522

      I note the OPP is celebrating “Police Week” this week as well. Do the above comments apply to them as well? Seriously?

  13. #17 by house garden on Monday 07 June 2010 - 0213

    Nurses deserve much more better! Cannot more agree with you.

  14. #18 by cartoon characters on Friday 13 May 2011 - 1001

    Mostly, it’s nurses bringing in “goodies” that the MDs scarf down – because we have so little time to actually participate…

  15. #19 by Sarah Reynolds (@SarahReynolds20) on Thursday 03 May 2012 - 0653

    I completely agree with you. I cringe every year as the syrupy emails from management and the union start flowing. It feels demeaning and trivial.

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