This past month we observed Nurses week, which ended on Florence Nightingale’s Birthday — May 12. It’s an observance that has taken several decades to put into place. As early as 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U. S. Department of Health sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a “Nurse Day” to be held October of the following year which was not supported at that time. In spite of this, National Nurse Week was observed October 11-16, 1954 marking the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. In 1974, the International Council of Nurses proclaimed May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, as “International Nurse Day.” In February 1974 President Richard Nixon proclaimed a National Nurse Week. With support from New Mexico nurses, American Nurses’ Association (ANA), and President Reagan signing a proclamation in 1982, we now have “National Recognition Day for Nurses” designated May 6. In 1993, The ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 – 12 National Nurses’ Week (nursingsworld.org)
Each year, the ANA develops a logo to celebrate nurses and all that they do. The 2012 theme was “Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring”. Nurses are the consumers’ advocate as they care for people across the life span in a variety of settings around the globe and as they educate the public to navigate through the health care system. Nurses can be described as well-educated, highly skilled, trustworthy, and caring in everything they do. They are leaders who influence health care policy with the priority and commitment of keeping the public safe when it comes to health care. Nurses touch the heart, mind, body, and soul as they provide holistic care to individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations. They function as change agents as they strive to improve health and provide the best nursing care. Nurses may serve in many roles as they advance their education: practitioner, educator, leader, and researcher.
There are 3.1 million registered nurses in America (nursingworld.org). Arizona has more than 72,000 registered nurses (azbn.gov). Who is a nurse that has impacted your life? Is it the RN who was at your side supporting you when you gave birth to your children, the nurse who cared for a dying loved one? Or is it the nurse who took action that made your life better or even saved your life? As a nurse of 41 years, I believe I can say that nurses do not ask for more in return than that you take care of yourself so you can take care of others in your life.
Students are entering the last half of the semester and are focused on the finish line. Preceptorships, practicums and capstone projects are the stepping stones to convocation, commencement and graduation celebrations. After four years of long nights, last-minute projects and juggling multiple classes, students may think life becomes simpler after graduation with just one “job” to focus on. Many times, the anticipated reality is not as easy as it sounds.
It is a nurse’s responsibility to come to work alert and ready to provide safe patient care. Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 4-10) is a great time to remember the impact a nurses’ fatigue can have on a patient’s safety. Fatigue can lead to lapses in attention, a lack of motivation, a decrease in problem-solving ability, confusion, irritability, impaired communication, diminished reaction time, indifference and loss of empathy. These factors can put both patients and staff at risk.
So what steps can a new nurse take to decrease fatigue and minimize errors?
- Establish a routine.
- Get enough sleep and take naps when necessary.
- Practice good sleeping habits; routines are important especially when working a new shift time.
- Engage in relaxing, pre-sleep habits, such as reading or yoga.
- Avoid food, alcohol or stimulants (such as caffeine) that can impact sleep.
2. Participate in a work culture that recognizes the impact of fatigue on patient care.
- Provide input into designing work schedules that minimize the potential for fatigue.
- Be supportive of other staff members when they express concerns about fatigue.
- Encourage teamwork and regular safety checks to protect patients from harm.
- Develop your skills of patient hand-offs and evaluate the effect that fatigue may have on the quality of your communications.
- Implement a fatigue management plan that may include engaged conversations, physical activity, strategic caffeine consumption and short naps (if allowed).
Dedication and commitment toward your education will pay off as you begin your career as a nurse. Developing personal and professional practices that address self-care, encourage a balanced life, and establish good sleeping habits will help ensure that your career as a nurse is rewarding for a lifetime!