All throughout the year, nurses celebrate special recognition days that are focused on their area of specialty and expertise through their professional nursing organizations. There are many days of specific nursing recognitions such as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) Week in January, Transplant Nurses Week in April, Neonatal Nurses Week in September, or National Nurse Practitioner Week in November. In fact, most months throughout the year there are special days, or a week dedicated to providing recognition and praise to nurses for their unique focus areas of nursing.
But the month of May is for all nurses! I’m sure that many longtime nurses can remember celebrating National Nurses Week in May since its beginning in 1993. It has always been celebrated beginning on May 6th National Recognition Day for Nurses, and ends on May 12th, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday. However, for the past several years, the American Nurses Association has advocated for a month-long celebration of nurses to promote a greater appreciation and understanding of the valuable roles and many contributions that nurses make every day! The ANA has broken down National Nurses Month into 4 weeks with specific areas of focus…Self-care, Recognition, Professional Development and Community Engagement.
I can remember Nurses Week being a time of sincere celebration and acknowledgement from the staff and administrators in the hospital I was working in, and from the patients and their families. Personally, it was, and still is a period of reflection for me. I find myself looking back on my nursing career, thinking about all the amazing healthcare professional’s I have met and the many clinicians that have contributed in such a meaningful way to my nursing journey. I reflect on what I have accomplished and what my professional goals are for the upcoming year.
I also think back on the many patients that I have met over the years. Nurses Month brings back such special memories of patients that have given me the privilege to care for them during what is often their most difficult and frightening days. Every Nurses Month, one particular patient and his wife always comes to my mind. I was a staff nurse in a cardiothoracic intensive care unit, and he was one of my patients for weeks on end. Of course, as time went on, I also got to know his wife very well. I had a rather long drive to work and from the end of April through the beginning of May, I admired the rows of cheerful looking forsythia along the parkway pushing out their beautiful yellow flowers. It was such a celebration of color, a rebirth after a long cold winter, and a sure sign that Spring was on the way.
Yet, I was on my way to care for such a critically ill patient. I thought about this juxtaposition on every commute. Each day as I cared for him, I shared what was going on outside the hospital during his morning care. I would provide an update on his favorite sports team, the daily weather, and the change in season. I encouraged him to ask questions and did my best to ease both his and his wife’s fears. As the weeks continued into months, his wife was reminiscing and shared that the springtime forsythia was one of her husband’s most favorite bushes. She expressed how he missed them this Spring as he was in the hospital. I smiled and shared with her that we often spoke about the forsythia many times during his morning care and that I did my best to describe the blooming bushes that I passed on my way to work each day.
To this day, which is decades later, I still think of him and his wife when May rolls around, and Nurses Week is celebrated. It’s at this time of the year that I see the forsythia bursting with their yellow flowers every spring. It's moments and memories like these that foster why I’m always so grateful to be a nurse. The blooming yellow forsythia in May along with Nurses Week celebrations will always serve as a reminder to me of the many ways our role as nurses can impact our patient’s and how they can also have an everlasting impact upon us as well.
Happy Nurses Week! 🌼