They're celebrating Nurses' Week (an aside: why is it that, after nearly ten years as one, I still type "nurse" as "nruse"? Damn) at Sunnydale right now. Matter of fact, it's being celebrated all over the country, by gum, as the hospital- and clinic- and school-going public bows in honor of our awesomeness.
Mostly, NW at Sunnydale is being celebrated with food. Yep. Potlucks ("Happy Nurses' Week! Bring your own food!"), ice cream socials, breakfasts, snack times. A couple years ago, we celebrated with food. Last year, food. And massages, which were nice.
I propose a different sort of Nurses' Week observation for next year.
For Nurses' Week 2011, let's start paying nursing professors what they're worth. Let's make their wages better than those earned by the most entry-level nurses at the bedside, for starters. When I graduated with a two-year degree and started working at the bedside, I was immediately earning thirty percent more than my highest-paid professor, who had a PhD.
Paying nursing professors fairly would bring people who really want to teach into the field. Right now, they look at the starvation wages, long hours, and piles of paperwork and decide to bag it and stay at the bedside. That's led to the shortage of class space and contributed to the nursing shortage--plus, it shows how little we really value a good nursing education.
For Nurses' Week 2011, I want a commitment that hospitals in particular will be safe, healthy places to work. Too many nurses and ancillary folks are subjected to the sort of abuse from patients and family members that would get you thrown out of the skankiest bar in Bigtown.
I've had problems personally with patient-on-nurse violence, and it raised its head again a couple of weeks ago, when a patient's family member got up in a colleague's face. She did what I'd told her would work: called 911, turned the family member over to the cops, and then filed charges. That made Manglement pay attention and deal with the situation, but it should not have to go that far. I want a commitment from managers all over the country that nurses should not have to make a federal case of violence and threats to get relief.
For Nurses' Week 2011, how 'bout we quit cutting budgets for support staff, too? The patient care techs and housekeepers and lab staff and radiology folks are all vital to the jobs we do. I can't monitor a patient with a bleeding problem if I'm busy cleaning a room for an emergent admit. Likewise, sometimes it's better to have a tech bathing patients than a nurse, because--frankly--not only are the techs better and faster at it than I am, but they're likely to learn something from the patient that the patient won't tell me.
We do incredibly important things, but those important things are dependent on the work that the invisible people in the hospital do. Let's bring those invisible people out into the spotlight for once, and make it clear how much we depend on them.
And finally, for Nurses' Week 2011, let's you and me talk about what we actually do as nurses, and get the word out.
We dare to care, yes. I don't know about you, but I personally also dare to interpret lab values, take calls from pathologists, arrange meetings between family members and doctors, push the occasional dose of epinephrine, hug people, wipe ass (yes), act as a care coordinator, take responsibility for my own and others' fuckups, and generally herd cats.
We're not just warm and fuzzy: we're scientists, we're social workers, we're personal counsellors. If we can give the people we talk to about nursing a complete picture of what it is we do--rather than focusing on things like nurses eating their young, or crappy doctors, or how fulfilling it is to wash a back at three a.m.--we're likely to find many more smart, motivated people who are suddenly interested in becoming nurses.
I wish you all a very happy Nurses' Week 2010: old nurses, new nurses, nursing students, nursing professors, ancillary staff, respiratory techs, radiology guys, the dude who deals with the red-bagged stuff, unit secretaries, transporters, EMTs. I'll bring the queso and chips; the rest of the feast is up to you.
For Nurses' Week 2011, though, let's plan a real celebration and appreciation of nurses. Let's plan something meaningful and push for changes that'll really make a difference for us and for our patients.
And let's all get massages. That was really, really nice.