The American Nurses Association (ANA) has announced the theme of National Nurses Week 2006, "Nurses: Strength, Commitment, Compassion." This special week honoring nurses is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
"This year’s theme embodies what it means to be a registered nurse today," said ANA president Barbara Blakeney, MS, RN.
"Today’s nurses must have the strength to care for patients during times of disaster and crisis; they must have the commitment to remain involved in continuing education throughout their careers; and they must have the compassion it takes to provide hands-on patient care at the bedside – as they have done throughout the centuries," she added.
"At 2.9 million strong, nurses represent the largest group of health care workers in America," said Linda Stierle, MSN, RN, CNAA,BC, ANA’s chief executive officer.
"And, among the goals of National Nurses Week is to remind the public not just how vital our nation’s nurses are to patients, their families and society – but also how much power nurses hold in achieving much-needed reform in nursing and in health care," she added.
As Blakeney noted, chief among health-care-related concerns today is an escalating shortage of nurses. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. currently has a deficit of nearly 150,000 RNs and will have a shortage of more than 800,000 RNs by the year 2020.
"That’s why ANA has made achieving greater funding for nurse education a chief priority on its legislative agenda – so that we can be assured of having enough nurses to care for patients now and in the future," Blakeney said. "Advanced nursing education is particularly important to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty available to educate the next generation of nurses, as well as to provide specialized education for growing areas of nursing need, such as geriatrics."
Unfortunately, for fiscal year (FY) 2006, overall funding for nurse workforce developments programs – which include student loan and scholarship programs and the Nurse Reinvestment Act – has essentially remained flat at $151 million.
However, to ensure more nurses in the future, ANA is asking for an increase to $175 million in FY 2007 funding for the programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA, Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act).
Another key focus related to the shortage is achieving safe nurse staffing.
And to that end, ANA has been working with Congress to secure passage of S. 71, the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act and H.R. 1372, the Quality Nursing Care Act.
These bills would require the development of staffing systems with the input of direct-care registered nurses (RNs) and provide for whistler-protection for RNs who speak out about patient care issues.
Finally, with the safety of patients and the nurses who care for them in mind, ANA has continued to make the goals of its "Handle with Care" campaign a priority.
This initiative, which was launched in 2003, is aimed at persuading hospitals and other health care facilities to adopt no-manual-lift policies and employ assistive-lifting devices in patient handling and care. Implementing these changes will help address the nation’s growing nursing shortage, by reducing the number of nurses whose careers are cut short because of avoidable injuries, by extending the work life of an aging nursing workforce and by making nursing a more attractive career choice.
To learn more about the nursing shortage, go to www.nursingworld.org/readroom/fsshortage.htm
For the latest on ANA’s Handle with Care campaign, see www.nursingworld.org/handlewithcare. For more on National Nurses Week, go to www.nursingworld.org/pressrel/nnw