Reflections on National Nurses Week 2015: Ethical Practice, Quality Care

Editorial by Shanna Shafer RN, BSN

Each year, the American Nurses Association leads the charge to acknowledge the role of nursing in our healthcare system and to recognize the important contributions of the largest segment of healthcare workers in our nation: Nurses.

Each year since I have become a nurse, I have joined in the week's festivities proudly. My Nurses Week efforts have ranged from simply telling my co-workers how valuable they are, to hosting elaborate open houses and designing highly visible social media campaigns to give nurses the recognition we deserve.

I have experienced National Nurses Week as an overworked and completely stressed out staff nurse in the Burn ICU, barely noticing the week fly by as I cared for my patients and their families. This is where I first learned the value of a great nurse.

I have experienced Nurses Week as the Chief Operating Officer of a nurse owned and operated PICC company, and was compelled to shower our employees with accolades, gifts and public recognition for their amazing work.

I have experienced Nurses Week as a student, as a leader; as a vocal proponent for the profession and as a quiet observer of my amazing nursing peers.

This year, I experience the week as a nurse who no longer provides direct patient care, save for my own family members, who are the real reason I chose nursing in the first place. This year, it feels as if I am both more removed, and more involved, than I have ever been. This year, I can also say that I am, for perhaps the first time, totally impressed by the tagline selected by ANA to represent our profession.

"Ethical Care, Quality Practice"

I have always cherished those who have taken the time to say thank you during this special week in May, as gratitude is something that can often feel overlooked in nursing. I also appreciate when those who honestly know how hard and involved nursing is take the time to note that we are more than just a "caring" profession. I am especially honored this year, to see the breadth of nursing's role reflected by the choice of words used to celebrate us.

The role that nurses play in ensuring for an ethical and quality based healthcare system cannot be overstated. In fact, it is often understated and underestimated.

As a whole, nursing is usually viewed as a caring profession. It is seen as a career path chosen by people who are compassionate, helpful, empathetic and who are driven to care for those in need. Of course, this is absolutely true. But there are many other characteristics of nurses that need to be brought to the forefront of our profession, if we are to make the impact that we are truly capable of.

As nurses, we are tasked with providing both first line and behind the scenes healthcare services. Not only are we the ones holding the hands of your loved ones in painful times, but we are the ones who are accountable for whether or not your loved ones receive equitable, efficient and safe care. We are continually focused on assessing, improving, reconciling, reporting, documenting, and implementing processes that improve health; from the bedside to the operating room to the boardroom.

We are a dedicated group of professionals who make decisions based on what is right, what is ethical and what is best for our patients and our communities. The reach that our efforts can have is tremendous. From the smallest act of medication reconciliation to the worldwide efforts of nurses to fight Ebola, this year has demonstrated to me just how valuable we are in an ethical and high quality system of care.

I am continually moved and amazed by my peers, and this year, as we work our way through National Nurses Week, I want to remind each and every one of you just how important you are. To me, to your patients, to your families, to your communities, to our nation, and to our world. You truly have the ability to change lives, and I'm guessing that many of your own lives have been changed by your nursing experiences. I know mine has been.

You are making the world a better place, and you can continue to do so for years to come.

Keep educating yourselves and your patients. Keep improving your communities and your facilities. Keep strengthening our profession by expanding your practice. Keep opening the eyes and hearts of others with your stories and successes. Keep the values of ethical practice and quality care at the forefront of what you do each day, and never stop learning.

I could go on for days…

But like most nurses, I've got to get back to work.

So, to conclude, I just want to say thank you.

Thank you to each and every one of you. To the nursing students and nursing stockholders; to the LPNs and the DONs; to the APRNs and the nursing policy makers; from me to you:

Thank you, nurses.

Shanna Shafer RN, BSN and all of the staff at

Happy National Nurses Week 2015!