In the U.S., there are more than 4 million registered nurses. With May being National Nurses Month, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has decided to honor these essential workers with the theme “You Make a Difference.”
“You bring vast knowledge and expertise to every health care setting across a wide range of specialties, serving your patients and communities throughout the continuum of life and care,” the ANA website states. “You truly make a difference by influencing and shaping health policy decisions that ensure all people have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage.”
It’s no surprise nurses have difficult jobs, but since the pandemic, which started in 2020, they have experienced the brunt of hardships and struggles. In late 2020, a survey was conducted to understand the pandemic’s toll on this workforce. The survey showed that 25% of nurses suffered from burnout in April. By December, that number rose to 61%.
Understanding a fraction of the pressure they experience comes from realizing that their job is not just about medical experience but also about caregiving and hospitality.
While medical treatment is crucial to help with illnesses and diseases, it only gets us part of the way to healing and recovery.
An overlooked part of this process is the importance of hospitality. One study showed that when patients in hospitals were cared for with empathy and humanity, they felt more comfortable and at ease, and the healing process was quicker.
To recognize all that nurses do while easing their feelings of burnout and stress, the ANA has dedicated each week of May to a different topic:
Week 1: Self-Care (May 1–7)
This first week is “dedicated to cultivating and maintaining optimal mental health and physical well-being.” Nurses care for everyone else, but at the same time, they need to care for themselves as well. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that self-care helps improve mental health by managing stress, lowering the risk of illness, and increasing energy.
Week 2: Recognition (May 8–14)
Following self-care is recognition, which was dedicated to “honor the work of nurses who lead, excel, and innovate in our health care systems and our communities, making them vital to transforming the future of health care.”
When it comes to thanking these essential workers for how much time and effort they devote to their jobs and our health, consider writing them a handwritten thank you note and acting with patience and understanding during your hospital stay. If you have the means, donating a gift card to let them treat themselves after their shift is also a kind gesture.
Week 3: Professional Development (May 15–21)
The third week is all about how nurses can excel, lead in their careers, and help others on their journey. Burnout is a serious problem in this industry. At Columbia University Irving Medical Center, one way they have eased these workplace traumas since the pandemic has been with the CopeColumbia program. It provides nurses with various outlets and support systems, or “circles of care,” to help them realize the importance of their profession while learning coping mechanisms for the stressors.
Week 4: Community Engagement (May 22–31)
For the final week, the focus is to “educate members of your community on what nurses do beyond the bedside — advocacy, shaping public policy, or serving as an organization board.”
As National Nurses Month wraps up, the ANA calls on us to be advocates for this vital workforce and hospitals across the country.
They fight so much for us when we desperately need them that the least we can do is advocate for them. Whether for better access to necessary equipment, proper compensation, or mental health resources, there is so much we can do to help those who help us the most.
While each week has a different focus, you can still show appreciation and admiration for nurses throughout the entire year. One month is not nearly enough time to thank these workers for all they do, so step up today to show your appreciation.