Do days recognizing nurses help the profession?

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

Today is International Nurses Day, an occasion pegged to the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the British woman who devoted her life to improving nursing.

Florence Nightingale (via Wikipedia Commons)

Florence Nightingale (via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a time to recognize nurses, and an opportunity for them to remind the rest of us of their relevance. The day also marks the end of National Nurses Week, a creation of the American Nurses Association.

But does the special recognition for nursing help or hurt the status of the profession? Christine Moffa, a nurse and editor at the American Journal of Nursing, tackles the question on its blog Off the Charts:  “[P]eople who have days or weeks dedicated to them must have it pretty bad the rest of the year. Professions with prestige and power don’t have a day or a week.”

Her sense of humiliation over the celebrations is deepened by token gifts, like the squeezable stress toy an employer gave her one year, and hokey contests, like picking the sexiest nurse or the one with the nicest fingernails.

A commenter to the post chimes in: “[I]t’s only people who are disempowered who get a ‘day’ or a ‘week:’ secretaries, mothers, and nurses.” Her suggestion: “Instead of prizes and a free meal how about we get a raise!”

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