Traditionally Nurses’ Week messages are full of images of smiling, caring nurses who are referred to as the “most trusted” health professionals. This year I challenge each and every one of you to find out more about the work that professional nurses do everyday and every shift in settings that range from acute care hospitals to remote and Indigenous communities. Professional nurses do important work that promotes, protects and preserves the health of Canadians.

I have provided professional nursing services since 1974 in three Canadian provinces. I practiced first as a Registered Nurse in a small hospital in B.C. After obtaining a graduate degree in nursing I worked for many years as a nurse leader and nursing practice consultant. In addition to a variety of professional work experiences, I have also needed the knowledge and skills obtained during three professional degrees (a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, and a PhD in Nursing). More recently, I have been actively involved in educating the next generation of nursing professionals, and have studied nursing work in settings that range from acute care and rural hospitals to community care and public health.

Nurses frequently provide nursing care in challenging contexts that make the provision of excellent nursing care difficult but most remain committed to making a difference in the health and lives of Canadians. Even a story about a difficult experience during hospitalization or medical treatment adds to our collective understanding about what nurses do and the resources they need to better support their important work. Almost everyone knows a professional nurse so I offer the following questions to guide your explorations.

Ask a professional nurse:

  1. About the work she/he does that keeps people safe during hospitalization and/or medical treatment.
  2. About how he/she advocates for people and communities to receive needed health services.
  3. About the complexities of educating nursing students to provide nursing care and the knowledge, skills and professional behaviors required.
  4. About the need to maintain environments for care that support professional nursing practice and to provide the resources nurses need for this important work.

Be sure to find out the nurse’s full name and credentials and about the professional education that has prepared this nurse for this complex, knowledge intensive and highly skilled work. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Let’s celebrate National Nurses’ Week by making the knowledge and skills that underpin nursing work visible; while also acknowledging nurses’ many contributions to compassionate and collaborative interprofessional patient and family centered care. Despite many challenges, nurses remain committed to improving health and health care for Canadians and for people around the world.

For those who are interested in more information about National Nursing Week, I have provided the link to Canadian Nurses Association Website below.

I would love to hear from you about your conversations and explorations.

Karen MacKinnon RN BSN MSN PhD (Nursing)
Associate Professor, School of Nursing
University of Victoria