Caring for the Caregivers: Nurses Week & Hospital Week in Review

healthcare humor is power Jun 04, 2013

From my point of view, Nurses Week and Hospital Week 2013 absolutely rocked! I had the good fortune to speak to the nursing staff at dozens of healthcare systems – always a thrill for me, because it’s a privilege to recognize, entertain and inspire the awesome nurses from coast to coast.

But how did Nurses Week look to other nurses around the country?

When I ask nurse managers and healthcare systems administrators what their biggest challenge is, the word ‘engagement’ comes up a lot: “We need nurses who are engaged, actively focused on the best in patient care – especially now that reimbursement rates are directly tied to patient satisfaction.” Nurses Week and Hospital Week celebrations are the time to recognize and celebrate the vital role nurses play (and hopefully inspire them to want to keep up their incredible performance!).

Are we doing a good job of letting nurses know how important they are?

Yes and no. When asked, many nurses are quick to share ‘The Good’, like the one nurse who wrote to me, “Awesome place of employment with an incredible Admin. Asst. who gave each of us nurses a different lei nearly every day = so we all got LEI'd!” Others share ‘The Bad’, like the nurse who lamented, “Yeah. We got a pen. That’s it. A Pen.” And there are those that share ‘The Ugly’: “What did we receive? Not a thing. Not even a thank you.”

Here’s what I’ve discovered over my years of participating in annual Nurses Week celebrations:

Peer To Peer Recognition is So Important

One of the most heartening things I heard this year was the numbers of nurses who went out of their way to wish each other “Happy Nurses Week!” Harvard Business School researchers have found that in any organization, when there is a healthy culture of peer-to-peer recognition in place, turnover can be reduced by more than a third.

Think back to Nurses Week in your facility. Did you hear your nurses wishing each other “Happy Nurses Week?” Not every team is equally enthusiastic about celebrating their strengths. You may need to provide education and leadership to help integrate this behavior into the culture of your organization. Lateral recognition is so important. We should encourage it throughout the entire year.

Don’t Forget The Night Shift!

“There was a luncheon... but too early for us 3-11 shifters to come in and 11-7 staff were home in bed,” one nurse reported.  Unfortunately, night shift nurses too often get short-changed when it comes to Nurses Week & Hospital Week celebrations.  A noteworthy exception was the thoughtfulness of University of Connecticut’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ellen Leone, who came into her facility in the middle of the night to serve ice cream sundaes to the entire team.

But for most night nurses, the story is sadly different. “They invited us to daytime activities and leftovers for the night shift,” was an all-too common response to my inquiries about recognition celebrations. Considering how hard it is to find – and keep! – great night shift nurses, couldn’t we do more than leave them the leftovers?

Be Sincere

It’s important to remember that some of the nurses we’re trying to connect with can be skeptical people. Part of this is an occupational hazard: There are only so many times you can hear patients tell you that they’re stringently following doctor’s orders when all the evidence points to the contrary before you begin to doubt their reports! Nurses know that some folks talk the talk but don’t walk the talk.

Our culture also plays a role as well. The Pew Research Group tells us that people no longer trust the government; The New York Times reports that we don’t trust big corporations or financial institutions; and Gallup tells us that nearly two thirds of Americans don’t trust the media.

It can be tough for healthcare systems that want their nurses to trust them to create that sense of confidence! Creating trust requires that one’s words and one’s actions be in alignment. Walk the talk! If you want your nurses to trust that you actually care about them and their well-being, your organization’s actions must reflect this sentiment in every sphere, from creating and implementing nurse-friendly policies and procedures to ceremonial occasions, like Nurses Week and Hospital Week. Sincerity matters, and is appreciated and remarked upon by nurses, like the comment from one nurse below:

“I know it came from their hearts, the words spoken were truly meant for each of us,” said Wanda Roberts, on Facebook, “I can't thank Christine Donohue RN of Capital Caring Hospice enough for making May 6th the best day of the year so far.”

The takeaway here is clear: As you begin making plans for Nurses Week or Hospital Week 2014, start from a place of genuine appreciation for the role nurses play in your organization’s success. The front line of patient care is an important place to be. You want the very best people standing there… and once they’re in place, you want to keep them happy. It needn’t take much (although it does take more than a pen!) but you do need to be sincere.

Nurse, speaker, and neurohumorist, Karyn Buxman, is funny AND informative AND inspiring AND… well, see for yourself. Go to and discover how she can create more success, significance and happiness at your healthcare system.


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