From beautiful baby to class valedictorian to lifetime achievement, awards follow us through life. Like award categories, attitudes about awards span a wide spectrum. Some among us are known to be, well, overzealous about awards while others are reluctant to have their accomplishments recognized. Regardless of an individual's attitude, awards are important within a social construct such as a profession.
Nursing awards created by professional organizations recognize member accomplishments. While the individual receiving the award is highlighted, so is the mission of the organization. Recognizing accomplishments of individuals provide a means for demonstrating and communicating within the profession and to the public about significant and exemplar contributions. Awards can reflect nursing’s scholarly and scientific contributions, practice innovations, outstanding clinical work, and educational initiatives. Should all the awards of all professional nursing organizations ever be collected into one book, the result would be a rich compilation of the considerable contributions of nurses to the public good.
On too many occasions, professional recognitions go unawarded for failure of members to apply. Excuses include lack of time to complete a nomination or application, too much work to gather supporting documents, fear of failure if not selected or feeling uncomfortable in the spotlight if selected. Award recipients can become targets of others’ sniping. Far from celebratory, it can be embarrassing and even painful leading many to forego the whole endeavor.
Excuses aside, here are some reasons for supporting applications for professional awards. As a citizen of the profession, you have an obligation to engage. Join professional organizations, serve on committees, run for office, vote for officers, and yes, apply for awards. Award selection is a peer review process. For performance evaluation and promotion purposes, receiving peer reviewed awards demonstrates to an employer or third party the impact of accomplishments as judged by peers. Award recipients should enjoy the notoriety with humility. Remember, it is not just about you. Receiving an award is telling a story of nursing accomplishments for the common good, which is responsibility of each citizen of the profession.
Another form of award recognition is membership, often called fellowship, in academies and institutes. Fellows are inducted into an academy based on rigorous peer review of a portfolio of accomplishments. Collectively, fellows in an academy can serves as a voice for action. Nursing academies advocate for change aligned with the scope of nursing interest. Interprofessional academies advance the causes of specialty populations and targeted initiatives. Serving within a larger collective amplifies a singular voice and in return strengthens the academy’s voice. Lending your voice to collective action is an act of professional citizenship.
Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) make outstanding contributions to nursing and the public welfare and should not shy away from making application for awards and fellowships. CNS accomplishments need to be highlighted in healthcare organizations, nursing specialty organizations, interprofessional organizations, and prestigious academies and institutes. The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists has multiple awards available to members. And CNSs can apply for fellowship in the Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute. Tell your story, celebrate your accomplishments, and lend your voice. Rise up to the challenge of professional citizenship.