1. Llanos, Elaine B. MSN, RN, OCN

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For 1 week every May, celebrations across America focus on the nursing profession. Employers have various ideas of how best to show appreciation of their nursing staff, with advanced planning essential to ensure a well-thought-out event. When a healthcare setting encompasses multiple sites, reaching out to honor nurses at each location becomes a logistical challenge. Recognizing the importance of shared communication, an interprofessional group effort led by nurses can successfully provide a memorable Nurses Week for all.

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Although the national conversation to recognize the value of professional nurses began in 1953 during President Eisenhower's administration, it wasn't until 1993 that the week of May 6 to 12 was officially designated as Nurses Week. The American Nurses Association board of directors specifically chose this weeklong event to end each year on Florence Nightingale's birthday.1 Twenty years later, we continue to celebrate the nursing profession for all the contributions nurses make to individuals, communities, and society as a whole. It's extremely important to recognize all nurses, which can be challenging for multisite organizations. So, how can a multisite healthcare center plan and carry out all of the activities of Nurses Week? It begins with nurses themselves.


What it's all about

Originally, our institution, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), occupied one city block in Manhattan. Having the entire nursing staff work in the same location allowed for easy access to all Nurses Week events, which took place in the main lecture hall and cafeteria. Nursing administration took responsibility for planning, announcing, and executing events for all shifts, such as meals, the awards ceremony, speakers, and reflection services. However, just as healthcare delivery has expanded to the ambulatory setting, so has MSKCC. With our nurses now spread out across seven different locations in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, one in New Jersey, one in Westchester, and three in Long Island, about one third of our nursing staff now fill outpatient positions. Given distances and scheduling necessities, Nurses Week celebrations at the "main campus" are no longer feasible for all.


In the first quarter of 2010, nursing administration reached out to the previously established Ambulatory Recruitment, Retention, and Recognition (ARRR) Nursing Council for input and assistance to enable all of the nursing staff to participate in Nurses Week activities. The ARRR Council is responsible for strategies that lead to retention and recognition of our nurses. Nurses Week is directly in line with this role, so we readily accepted the challenge.


With only a few months until May, our efforts were focused on quickly assessing each of our ambulatory sites for delivery specifics, number of nursing staff, nursing leadership, and how to bring main campus activities to the regional venues. In this time frame we were able to put together a breakfast for each site, as well as send out posters to display. However, we quickly learned that providing a more meaningful experience for our nursing staff requires more than a few months lead time. Subsequently, planning for 2011 Nurses Week began just after May 12, 2010.


Let the real planning begin

We first put out a call to the ARRR Council for volunteers to form a subcommittee, led by a council member. Much enthusiasm was expressed and we soon had representation from each ambulatory setting, including a "site champion" for every building. After speaking with administration, we decided on three initiatives: a meal, a gift, and acknowledgment/awareness. Based on the flow of most ambulatory sites, we decided a breakfast at each site would be the most feasible meal for nursing staff to join. Purchasing a gift specifically for each member of the nursing staff was unprecedented at MSKCC, and we had to choose something neutral that would represent our diversity. We also needed to expand on how we recognized the accomplishments of all of our nurses.


Ideas were shared regarding each of these topics at our monthly ARRR Council meetings (both face-to-face and via call-in/computer access), through e-mail exchanges, and at supplemental subcommittee meetings. To streamline status reports, information was posted on our intranet site with links to meeting minutes sent via e-mail. An important document entitled "Nurses Week Site Champion Responsibilities" addressed the necessary tasks and flow chart for each site to fulfill all three initiatives. Keeping all subcommittee members aware of our progress was a challenge, considering we worked in 12 different buildings within a 35-mile (56.3-km) radius of the main campus. Nevertheless, it proved to be an essential component for promoting continued involvement and inclusiveness.


Organizing a breakfast for each Manhattan outpatient site was handled by establishing and working with a corporate vendor (the remaining regional sites ordered from local markets). Each site champion then surveyed his or her own staff to choose a date, room, and time. Providing a gift proved to be a formidable venture at times, with an array of suggestions from the color of an item to choosing one that's environmentally sound. After choices were narrowed down, a vote was taken of the subcommittee members' preferences, and majority ruled. The chosen gift, a reusable water bottle, was then presented to the Ambulatory Coordinating Council (comprised of other council chairpersons and nurse leaders), as well as inpatient representatives, for their approval.


Concerning acknowledgment/awareness, creativity was key; the idea was to spread the word to MSKCC staff, visitors, and patients that Nurses Week is a time to recognize the value of our nursing staff. Working with our medical graphics department, we created a "thank you" poster and each site champion ordered the number and sizes she needed. With the assistance of our Information Systems department, a replica of the poster was displayed on our LCD monitors in patient waiting areas each day of Nurses Week. Intranet pop-ups announcing Nurses Week greeted every staff member who logged on, and the weekly MSKCC newsletter gave us a mention.


All nurses who displayed posters or conducted podium presentations at the Oncology Nursing Society's Annual Congress submitted their work for inclusion on our intranet site for the entire staff to see. The Excellence in Nursing Award ceremony and guest speaker, arranged by nursing administration, was held at the main campus, streamed live across all sites, and made available on our nursing intranet site for later viewing. To capture all of these efforts, our department of nursing newsletter devoted much of its spring edition to Nurses Week.


Celebrate at your sites

Now, after 2 full years of being entrusted with producing a successful Nurses Week that extends to all nursing staff, members of the ARRR Council have learned a great deal. The ordering and distribution of each initiative involves working interprofessionally with public affairs, procurement, receiving, information systems, graphics, and various members of the nursing department. This was new to many of us, but has taken us on an interesting path to recognizing the multitude of talent that comprises MSKCC. As members of various nursing councils, we have the opportunity to engage in decision making that affects our colleagues in a positive way.


Nurses Week is undoubtedly a group effort, with communication as the most essential ingredient. Although celebrated in separate buildings, cities, and states, MSKCC came together during the week of May 6 to 12 to pay tribute to our community of nurses. With thoughtful planning, the initiatives carried out here can be modified and personalized toward creating a successful Nurses Week celebration at any multisite healthcare setting.




1. American Nurses Association. National Nurses Week history. [Context Link]