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National Nurses' Week Gifts That Keep on Giving

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   May 05, 2015

In celebration of National Nurses Week, four leading CNOs reflect on the most meaningful gifts they've received during their nursing careers.

National Nurses Week. In an act of authenticity and transparency, I'll admit I have mixed feelings about the annual event. It was definitely started for the right reason—to recognize nurses for their valuable contributions to healthcare—but sometimes Nurses Week celebrations can come across as frivolous and insincere. "Thanks for saving lives. Here's a pen," doesn't really speak to the magnitude of the work nurses do each day.

There's data to back me up. In a 2008 survey "An Evidence-Based Approach to Nurses Week," which appeared in the Journal of Nursing Administration, 727 RNs at the University of Michigan Health System said they preferred educational opportunities (65%) over gifts (16%) as Nurses Week celebration options. I thought the article's authors came to an accurate conclusion when they wrote, "Nurses want public acknowledgement and recognition that their work is valued. They want substance not trinkets."

Now before you label me "The Grinch Who Stole Nurses Week" (though you must admit all those Whos down in Whoville would qualify as a population health cohort), let me clarify that gifts and substance are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who's received a finely crafted macaroni necklace from a preschooler knows gifts can be a way to represent the enormous amount of love and appreciation someone has for you. And sometimes gifts of a more intangible nature—like the gifts of time, thoughtfulness, and kindness—are the most meaningful. These are the types of gifts we should focus on during Nurses Week because they can genuinely affect a nurse's career or personal life for the better.

In the hopes of honoring the true meaning of National Nurses Week, I asked four nurse leaders to share the most memorable gifts they've given and received during their nursing careers. Their answers are thoughtful and inspiring, and I encourage all nurses to dedicate some time this week to reflect on the gifts your fellow nurses have given you. Happy Nurses Week!

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Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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