So what do nurses really want for National Nurses Week?

Think outside the tchotchkes during National Nurses Week

In a distant, past, faraway land of tchotchkes, nurses celebrated National Nurses Week by accruing a dazzling array of pens and stationery, coffee cups, tote bags and T-shirts, all stamped with their employer’s logo.

Some attended ice cream socials, while others went to lively self-development sessions.

There were even fashion-maven-driven sessions on colors. (I’m an autumn, evidently.) The events and gifts were well-intentioned, and people were polite and smiled.

But something was missing during what Liz Dietz, EdD, RN, NP, professor emeritus, San Jose State University and Red Cross Disaster and Service to the Armed Forces nurse, has called “The Great Fanny Pack Week.” Then another nursing shortage subsided, and the gestures disappeared.

Things are different now. Over the last few years, many organizations have distributed more professional gifts that allow nurses to celebrate the annual May 6-12 event with real opportunities for career development and heightened professionalism.

administrator and male nurse shaking hands

Consider professional perks as Nurses Week gifts

A few nursing departments received newly appointed or renewed access to continuing education accounts with unlimited online educational activities. Some were funded for professional conferences. One hospital gave business cards to all staff nurses, so their patients could identify them and their credentials. Still another facility announced a new program that would pay for nurses to take specialty certification exams. Respect and newly found power now color our Nurses Week celebrations.

But the past and the present share a common trait: No one asks nurses if well-intentioned, shiny gifts or even dignified professional perks are what they want to celebrate their nursing event, borne from the birthday of the profession’s founder, Florence Nightingale. Well, I did, and this is what I heard.

“No one asks nurses if well-intentioned, shiny gifts or even dignified professional perks are what they want to celebrate their nursing event …”

A comment from Steve Webster, RN, Progressive Care, Virtua Marlton (N.J.) Hospital, was telling: “You’d think I’d have an answer at the ready, but to be honest, I’ve never been asked.“

Some nurses, such as Susie Artis, MSN, RN, NE-BC, a nurse educator in Denver, reinforced current practices as spot on, saying, “I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I do not want another cup or pen. I want education and professional development. Bring in a guest speaker, and highlight the profession of nursing.”

Megan Ashley from British Columbia, Canada, emphasized resolving a nagging rift in nursing, saying, “I’d love a little bit of moral support from the bosses and managers. It feels like they look at us like we never do enough, never try hard enough. They are at their desks dealing with loads of paperwork — I get it — but it would bring up the team morale just a little bit.”

“I’d love a little bit of moral support from the bosses and managers. It feels like they look at us like we never do enough, never try hard enough.”

On the other hand, Coleen Morley, MSN, RN, CMCN, ACM, director of case management, MetroSouth Medical Center, Blue Island, Ill., reminded us, “[I would like] respect, especially for nurses in non-clinical areas. We are still nurses!”

Karen Mascolo, DNP, RN, assistant professor of nursing at Kent State University, said, “I would love to have a world with no more incivility. I am embarrassed that we say nurses ‘eat their young,’ and it is accepted as some twisted right of passage. I yearn for a professional environment where nurses mentor and support one another so that our patients receive the finest care that we can give and they deserve. That is all.”

Joseph Potts, RN, Orlando (Fla.) Heath, agreed, “I would like to see an end to divisive behaviors among nurses.”

Nancy DiMauro, MA, RN, BC, retired dean of the nursing program at ASA College in New York City, opined, “[We could have] a united nursing world with the same powers and force as the [American Medical Association] for political and legislative efforts. Nurses, if given the opportunity, could make great changes in healthcare! Amen!”

And maybe that’s the message for this year’s Nurses Week: We nurses need to come together as a profession so we can use our collective power to benefit our reason for being — our patients.

But, when it’s all said and done, it may be a matter of supply and demand.

As Catherine Harris, PhD, MBA, RN, owner of NursePreneurs and, reminded us, “Pens are pretty scarce on the units. What would we do if we didn’t get a fresh supply during Nurses Week?”


To find out how nurses around the country are celebrating Nurses Week, read our special National Nurses Week Resource Guide.



About the author
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN 

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is OnCourse Learning's executive vice president and chief clinical executive. He also is founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance ( As an editor for Spectrum, Hess penned editorials on career topics. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career. Join his Facebook followers at Robert G Hess Jr.

7 responses to “So what do nurses really want for National Nurses Week?”

  1. The irony is not lost on me that our company’s leadership survey coincides with Nurse’s Week. I too would rather have access to education or some type of professional development. I have been a nurse for 41 years now. I don’t need another lunch bag or beverage cup. I would like those of us who are actually at the patient’s side, delivering the care to have input into decisions & changes which happen. Just because I have chosen to stay in direct patient care doesn’t lessen the importance of the job I do, or my ability to see the big picture.

    • Sara — Because you have chosen to stay at the patient’s bedside puts you in the most important job in my mind and the best guide to seeing the big picture. I hope you have an opportunity to participate in a program, such as shared governance, which you can learn much about at my organization’s website, I true model will give you input into may decisions about patient care and the resources that support it.

      Thank you for remaining at the point of care.

      Dr Bob, RN

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