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by Siobhan Whitney, Med, BScN, DipHE, RM, RN
Published on May 10, 2017

It’s that time of year again where nurses are recognized for their hard work and dedication to their patients and to healthcare as whole. It’s where nurses, both nationally and internationally, recognize each other for everything they do for their patients and to the profession. These initiatives include educational and motivational events, and just a general appreciation (Which we nurses love and we need more please….) of the impact nurses have on their patients and to the health of the population.

International Nurses Day (IND) was initiated by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and is always held on May 12th every year in an effort to not only highlight important issues in nursing across the world but to also thank nurses for the job that they do. There’s also a whole week every year dedicated to nurses which originates from the American Nurses Association (ANA), which always starts on the 6th May and finishes on May 12th in line with International Nurses Day.

So why choose May 12th for a nurse’s day? Well, this is the birth date of one of the most famous nurses in history, Florence Nightingale. ‘Flo’ as she’s affectionately known, was seen as the founder of modern nursing and her practices back then have been cemented into our practice up to this day. ‘Flo’ is probably the most famous nurse in the world, she was quite inspirational and I can almost guarantee that in every student nurses curriculum she’s mentioned a few times!

Together, every year, both initiatives recognize a theme which is meaningful to all nurses across the world. This year the International Nurses Day theme is:

‘2017 - Nurses: A voice to lead - Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’

The idea behind the theme this year is recognizing that nurses are seen as devoted, passionate and empathetic towards both their patients and society’s needs. Wrongly or rightly we are described as ‘Angels’ (but that’s for another discussion…). Although we are not expected to right the worlds wrongs we’re encouraged to believe that every part of what we do as a nurse is contributing in some way to the health of an individual, individuals and quite possibly the population as a whole.

In order to recognize that nurses are reaching out further than they think, the ICN have based their nurse’s day theme on achieving sustainable development goals (SDG). These are goals set by the United Nations in 2015 and hoping to achieve these by 2030. The link shows what an amazing job nurses around the world are doing to help achieve these goals. It’s quite amazing what we get ourselves involved in.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Ultimately the ICN is recognizing how nurses are heavily involved with making changes and making a difference (which is what we all go into nursing to do, isn’t it?) in all aspects of healthcare and population health.

On the flip side of the theme for IND, the AMA’s theme for the 2-17 nursing week is:

‘Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit’

This is an interesting one but a very powerful theme for nurses which is possibly the other end of the spectrum from the IND theme. Nurses are expected to completely dedicate their life to the profession and to their patients. To a lot of people (and to many nurses) nursing is more of a ‘vocation’ rather than a profession. Some explain how they were given a ‘sign’ that they should go into nursing to help and care for the sick and dying and some joke that ‘we didn’t go into it for the money’.

Despite this all sounding like this is the dream job for many, there are negative effects of the job that manifest in burn-out, stress, fatigue and stress related illnesses and these are prevalent in nurses today. This happens for many reasons such as low staffing, poor working environments and long, irregular working hours. This also has a negative impact on our patients with studies showing that nurse burnout is linked to poor patient satisfaction and low quality care, potentially leading to adverse outcomes (Koy et al 2015). Nurses need to be vigilant in recognizing our nursing colleagues that are slowly sinking under pressure and brilliant initiatives like this highlight that we need to care not only for our patients but for each other too.

Nurse burnout is very prominent in nursing literature and this is why the nurse’s week theme is like a breath of fresh air for nurses, finally it is being recognized that to give great care to our patients, we have to be at our peak both mentally and physically.

In order to be a role model (something else that nurses are expected to be…although we are only human, well most of us are, we try our best!) we too have to be on top of our game. This is a great theme for the week as it makes nurses feel not only appreciated but ‘cared for’ (Nurses need to be cared for too…)

So the moral of these initiatives is for nurses to look after themselves first to be able to look after their patients and look after the health of the present and future population.

“Nursing is a kind of mania; a fever in the blood; an incurable disease which, once contracted, cannot be got out of the system. If it was not like that, there would be no hospital nurses, for compared dispassionately with other professions, the hours are long, the work hard, and the pay inadequate to the amount of concentrated energy required. A nurse, however, does not view her profession dispassionately. It is too much a part of her.”
Monica Dickens


Koy,V.,Yunibhand,J.,Angsuroch,Y. & Fisher,M,l.(2015) Relationship between nursing care quality, nurse staffing, nurse job satisfaction, nurse practice environment and burnout : Literature Review, International Journal Research in Medical Sciences, 3, (8), pp.1825-1831