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.