May 6, 2009

National Nurses Day!

Today is National Nurses Day! National Nurses Day, also known as National RN Day, kicks off National Nurses Week and honors Florence Nightingale's birthday (May 12th). National Student Nurse Day is May 8th and the International Nurses day is May 12th.

As I'm sure you can all guess, National Nurses Day and Week celebrate the tremendous contribution and commitments they make to health care. During the week, several health systems will host celebrations and banquets, and patients send their nurses flowers and chocolates. These, however, are just small tokens of appreciation owed to nurses everywhere.

If you think about a typical hospitalization, it's nurses who are almost constantly by your side. They are usually the first in the care team to see you and work hard to deliver care and treatment. Nurses are also patient advocates and stewards of patient safety. If you are thirsty or in pain, they are often the first people to help you. Nurses are simply invaluable to patient-centered and continuous care.

Because of the daily work that nurses do, they are often natural leaders when it comes to quality improvement. Yet, nurses and doctors commonly butt heads even though they are playing for the same team! When we take a look at health professions education, is this that big of a surprise? To the nursing students out there, how many of you have friends who are doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, health care administrators, etc.? On the flip side, how many doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, health administrators can count nurses among their list of friends? When was the first time you've worked or learned alongside people outside of your field?

Here's an episode of the TV show, Scrubs, which explores this relationship between doctors and nurses. Carla, is fantastic head nurse with years of experience under her belt, and J.D. is a fresh new medical intern. In the first few episodes of the season, J.D. depends on nurses like Carla to get through the day. But soon, the traditional medical hierarchy imposed on the health care system creates tension in their relationship. How would you resolve the tension? What kind of things would you do to promote teamwork?

In celebration of National Nurses Day and National Nurses Week, find a nurse and say "Thank You!".

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