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Nurses Week and Month Celebrate Pioneers, Focus on Future


Often referred to as the mother of nursing, Florence Nightingale will be celebrated during Nurses Week and Nurses Month in May. And this year, the contributions of a lesser known, yet extremely important, pioneer in nursing will be celebrated along with Nightingale. Well-known national and international organizations intend to recognize these nurses and also bring attention to current issues in nursing to foster change and progress in the profession.

ICN calls for action

[caption id="attachment_107613" align="alignright" width="200"] Howard Catton[/caption] Every year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) commemorates International Nurses Day on May 12 -- Florence Nightingale's birthday. The theme for this year's International Nurses Day campaign, entitled "Our Nurses. Our Future," highlights the ICN's efforts to focus on the future for nurses and patients. The ICN's CEO, Howard Catton, said on International Nurses Day the council plans to release a new report and charter for action that focuses on the future needs of nursing and the healthcare workforce. Catton added that the ICN will present a copy of the report to the World Health Assembly at the end of May and at the ICN Congress in Montreal in July. "There will be actions specifically focused on nurses and the nursing workforce, but there will also be recommendations on what the focus and priorities of our health systems should be as well," he said. Catton said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in health systems, such as a lack of personal protective equipment and widespread staffing shortages. As the world emerges from the COVID crisis, he said health systems are starting to see more non-COVID-19 related health issues, such as patient surgeries or disease treatments, that were delayed because of the pandemic making the global investment in nursing even more critical.

"We see the support, protection, and investment of our nurses as imperative to enable us not only to recover from the pandemic but to rebuild and address those future health needs as well," he said.

In addition to the release of the report, the ICN will celebrate nurses in other ways in May. For the second year, Aster DM Healthcare will be making a cash award of $250,000 to a nurse who exemplifies excellence. More than 52,000 nurses from 202 countries registered for the 2023 Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award. Catton will attend the awards ceremony and will be one of the judges this year in London on International Nurses Day.

ANA honors a nursing trailblazer

In May, the American Nurses Association will launch a lecture series about Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first licensed African-American nurse. The event is one of many activities the ANA has planned to recognize nurses during Nurses Month. [caption id="attachment_107606" align="alignleft" width="250"] Katie Boston-Leary, RN[/caption] The ANA, along with the Central Virginia Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, is organizing the Mary Eliza Mahoney Lecture Series to recognize the historical contributions of nurses of color, said Katie Boston-Leary, PHD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, Director of Nursing Programs for the ANA. The first lecture in the series will be held on Monday, May 8, one day after the anniversary of Mahoney's birthday, and will focus on her personal and professional life and her work as a visionary leader, organizer, and civil rights advocate. The ANA plans to host future lectures about Mahoney's contributions to nursing on her birthday (May 7). "We haven't done this before, and it's really symbolic," said Boston-Leary. "It's really a pain point for nurses of color: Why don't we celebrate the first Black nurse?" This is the fourth consecutive year the ANA has organized a month-long celebration of National Nurses Month in May. The ANA chose the theme, "You Make a Difference," to honor varying nursing roles and highlight the positive impact nurses have.

"Every year, it becomes increasingly important that we take time to recognize Nurses Month and honor those among us in health care who diligently serve as trusted patient advocates, leaders within their organizations, and influencers who shape health policy decisions," said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.

[caption id="attachment_107996" align="alignright" width="225"] Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, RN[/caption] "With great appreciation and gratitude, we also honor those nurses who came before us, like Mary Eliza Mahoney, who were trailblazers in shaping the nursing profession," said Mensik Kennedy. The monthly celebration is broken down into four focus areas: self-care (May 1-7), nurse recognition (May 8-14), professional development (May 15-21), and community engagement (May 22-31). Activities are planned throughout the month centered around these themes. Boston-Leary said the need for nurses to engage in self-care, including getting adequate sleep and exercise and eating properly, is being highlighted during the first week of Nurses Month because of the extreme stress and pressure they've been under in recent years. "We want to make sure nurses are taking care of themselves," she said. "The data is really clear: burnout really does result from many of the workload issues that exist in the practice today." Organizations also have a responsibility to support their employees by providing adequate staffing and a healthy work environment, she added. The ANA also will focus on nurse advocacy by hosting a free webinar called, "Asking and Advocating for What Nurses Need." Boston-Leary said an ANA survey found nurses often feel their voices aren't being heard. The webinar will include a discussion of current workplace challenges and things nurses can do to advocate for better working conditions. It will look at issues such as workplace violence, labor practices and working conditions, grassroots and state-level advocacy, and legislation. "It's setting a stage for nurses to share their ideas about what they need from their employers, organizations, and policy makers to make their work environment better," she said. Chat with your fellow nurses about what meaningful recognition means to you by downloading the app.