Established by the American Nurses Association (ANA) to coincide with Florence Nightingale's birthday, National Nurses Week recognizes the immeasurable contributions and positive impact nurses make to society. Registered nurses constitute the largest group of health care professionals in the United States at an astounding 4 million strong. In a nod to nurses' sheer numbers, ANA's “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate” campaign is an open invitation to #ThankaNurse for enriching our lives and the world we live in.1 But this weeklong celebration isn't just a time to pat ourselves on the back—it's a time to think critically about what makes people want to celebrate nurses in the first place.
For the 17th year in a row, nurses are the professionals the public has voted the most honest and ethical.2 That's an incredibly high honor, as trust isn't easy to come by. While setting the bar is certainly a reason to celebrate in and of itself, we need to look ahead and keep moving our standards higher. It won't be easy—a shortage of experienced nurses,3 for example, will place new strains on the profession, but there's no doubt the future will provide as much if not more opportunity than challenges.
This dedication to continuous improvement is a cornerstone of INS; resting on our laurels is not a thing we do in this profession in general, and infusion nurses in particular. We are in a unique position to affect patient outcomes with the care we provide. Infusion nurses are in every single clinical setting and work with every age group, and our expertise in infusion therapy has a significant impact on a patient's health care experience. Because we practice in every health care setting, our skill set needs to be able to adapt not only to the environment in which we practice but also to our patients. There is no “one size fits all” solution for any patient, least of all patients receiving infusion treatments.
Nurses are highly educated professionals with opportunities to earn certifications in a huge array of clinical specialties. Continuing education is key for nurses to not only earn such certifications but also keep on pace with the latest trends and innovations in nursing practice, as well as advance in other arenas such as executive leadership, academia, policy, and politics. To this last point, nurses are severely underrepresented on this front—of the 435 members of Congress today, only 2 are nurses.4 This lack of perspective can lead to policies that interfere with a nurse's ability to ensure optimal care for patients and their community's access to vital resources. When it comes to ensuring safe, high-quality, cost-effective care that's aligned with standards of practice and evidence-based research, nurses need to be more than a part of the conversation—they need to be leading the discussion.5
So, let's celebrate nurses' commitment to continuing education and the practical body of knowledge that advances our profession. Let's celebrate the influence and leadership experienced nurses have in their organizations and the rich perspective they bring into board rooms. Let's celebrate nurses' stories of strength, resilience, and determination while navigating an ever-changing and complex health care landscape.1 But above all, let's celebrate our combined dedication to patient care and our resolve to remain the most ethical profession.
And while National Nurses Week puts the spotlight on nurses one specific week each year, let's remember that nurses work 24/7, 365 days a year, ready to provide care at a moment's notice. I want to personally #ThankaNurse for the work you do every day.
1. American Nurses Association. National Nurses Week 2019. Published February 1, 2019. Accessed February 5, 2019.