For decades, National Nurses Week has honored those who commit themselves to the nursing profession while also highlighting the challenges and rewards of the nursing field. Perhaps most importantly, the week provides people the perfect opportunity to remember a nurse who made a difference in their lives.

National Nurses Week runs each year from May 6 to May 12, ending on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Within the week, Wednesday is celebrated as National Student Nurses Day. 

The week honors nurses for their compassion and dedication and the specialized work skills and knowledge they acquire through education and experience. It’s a special time for Houston Christian University, where the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs in nursing attract both on-campus and online students every year.

Why Are Nurses So Important?

More than 3 million people work as a nurse in the United States, including 217,630 in Texas. The nursing profession is one of the fastest-growing jobs in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic focused the public spotlight on nurses’ essential role in safeguarding public health. Nurses across the country worked on the front lines in the battle to save lives, placing their health and safety at risk.

But even during “normal” times, nurses display great diversity and strength through various crucial skills. Depending on where they work, a nurse’s duties might range from educating people on living healthier lives to ensuring a patient gets the most accurate diagnosis at their doctor’s office.

Nursing duties in every specialty typically include:

  • Performing physical exams and making critical decisions
  • Providing health promotion, counseling, and education
  • Administering medication
  • Coordinating care

“Due to the vast range of specialisms and complex skills in the nursing profession, each nurse will have specific strengths, passions, and expertise,” the American Nurses Association writes about nurses. In all specialties, nurses look beyond test results to evaluate the patient, using their judgment to consider both objective data and their subjective assessment of each patient’s biological, physical and behavioral needs.

The Challenges Facing Modern Nurses

The ANA calls nurses “the glue that holds a patient’s health care journey together.” They added that “wherever there is someone in need of care, nurses work tirelessly to identify and protect the needs of the individual.”

That’s an apt description of nurses today. But while more nurses than ever work in the U.S. and around the world, the profession faces a set of difficult challenges.

  • Staff shortages. In Texas, the state continues to expect a sizeable nursing shortage in the coming years.
  • Long work hours. Nurses work long hours, especially in places experiencing a nursing shortage. Some may also face mandatory overtime requirements or have to work back-to-back shifts.
  • Professional burnout. Whatever the reason for long work hours, the consequence is the same. More than most professions, nurses risk quickly experiencing burnout and fatigue.

Ways to Thank Nurses

Both healthcare employers and patients have the opportunity to express their appreciation for nurses during National Nurses Week. 

For employers, it’s a time to let nurses know their importance in running an effective healthcare operation. They can honor nurses during National Nurses Week by hosting an event for the nursing staff or setting up a peer-recognition program.

For patients, it is a chance to thank a nurse who saw them through a difficult delivery of a newborn, calmed their concerns about a suspicious symptom during a doctor’s visit, or greeted them when they first awoke after surgery. A handwritten thank you note is always appreciated, as is giving a nurse something to help them through their days like coffee, snacks, and gift cards.

Nurses play a critical role in everyone’s life at some point. They also play a central role in running a successful healthcare operation. National Nurses Week gives people another reason to show appreciation to nurses for what they do.