National Nurses Week is a time to observe the important contributions of nurses in our society. The week culminates on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Supported by the American Nursing Association (ANA), individuals and employers are encouraged to recognize the difficult and often thankless work of nurses in their lives.

The seeds for National Nurses Week were planted in the 1950s when Dorothy Sutherland, member of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, proposed an annual observance to President Eisenhower. The idea was brought up again in the 1970s and some progress was made. In 1982, President Reagan signed a proclamation that made May 6 of that year a national recognition day for nurses. In 1994, the ANA declared the entire week of May 6 through 12 as National Nurses week.

The theme of the week for 2015 is ethical practice and quality care. For individuals and organizations participating, there are a number of resources on the National Nurses Week website.

A nurse’s role in pain management

For people living with the effects of chronic pain, a nurse is a very important part of their team of care providers. Nurses are trained to provide compassionate care to patients no matter how infrequently they come face to face. For nurses to better help their patients this article from Nurses Together describes many of the same pain treatment options we recommend here at Holistic Pain. They include:

  • Follow-up care
  • Alternatives to narcotic treatments
  • Lifestyle strategies
  • A pain diary
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Resting
  • Dietary changes

Pain management is an issue for so many segments of our society. Imagine the stress and pressure put on a nurse who works within an extended care facility such as a nursing home. Not only do they have the responsibility to assist their patients but also demonstrate to the families that they are working hard to keep their loved ones comfortable. This article from The Annals of Long Term Care describes the difficultly that nurses face and the responsibility to their patients and the families to provide the best care possible.

Far too often, the nurse becomes the easy target when it comes to frustration with pain management or ineffective treatments. However, every patient should keep in mind the hard work that nurses do every day managing the pain of multiple people. In fact, nurses experience depression at a rate twice as high as the rest of the general public. It can be difficult to separate themselves from the emotions of their jobs. The high demand and long hours are exhausting both physically and mentally. In fact, there is far too little research being done on occupational burnout as felt by individuals in the nursing profession.

It is difficult to deny that nurses have a critical role when it comes to pain management for either acute or chronic conditions.

Showing gratitude to your nurses

If you’re wondering how you can honor National Nurses Week and show your caregivers that you are truly grateful for their quality of care, here are some simple ideas for this week and beyond.

  1. Handwritten thank you notes: There are few things that beat a truly heartfelt thank you note. Spend some time handwriting it if you can and send it in the mail. If this is difficult due to pain, you can send them an email thanking them for all they do as your care provider.
  2. Sweets and treats: Food is one of many love languages. Just ask anyone’s Italian mother-in-law! If you enjoy baking or cooking bring them something delicious to say thank you for all the hard work they do for you and your family. And don’t worry; a store bought treat can be just as valued since it is the thought that counts.
  3. Gift cards for local restaurants: Nurses are often pressed for time when they’re on the job. Buy them gift cards for local cafes or fast food so they can grab some lunch or dinner on the go. If you can, pick places close to their work that might have healthy choices.
  4. Practical gifts: Another great option for the busy nurse on the go is a practical gift. They could be heavy duty totes for their equipment, a soft-sided insulated cooler for food, travel mugs, or anything they can use every day.
  5. Impractical gifts: Your nurse shouldn’t feel as though they have to spend every waking minute thinking about their job. Why not give them a token that makes you think of them as a person? This could be a necklace or charm bracelet. It could be a favorite movie or a mix CD of songs you think they would enjoy.
  6. Self-care: Another great gift that tells your nurse that you value them as a person and not just a caretaker is a gift for self-care. A certificate to a local spa for a massage or other treatment can do wonders to help your nurse deal with their own stress and potential burn-out on the job.
  7. An invitation: Lastly, if you receive regular care from your nurse and feel as though you have established a friendship with them, feel free to invite them to family gatherings or parties. They may not be able to come but it will make them feel good to be included as part of your trusted circle.

This year, for National Nurses Week, make sure you take the time to let your caretakers know how much your value them. Share your appreciation of the positive impact they make on you in terms of your pain management as well as on a personal level.

How will you honor National Nurses Week?

Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr

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