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In the merry month of May, there’s a very special week set aside to celebrate the amazing work that nurses do. Hospitals throw extravagant parties with four-course meals and a fat bonus check for every nurse on staff. Local government officials host a ticker tape parade where nurses march arm in arm through the city center between rows of cheering fans. Everyone who has ever been a patient sends a thank you card or a flower arrangement to a nurse who has made a difference in their life. Doctors band together to take complete responsibility for patient care for 24 hours so nurses can have a well-deserved day off.
Okay, back to reality. We asked our readers to describe what Nurses Week is really like at their job. The most common response was “Does any hospital celebrate Nurses Week?” Sadly, many employers and managers don’t even acknowledge this event at all—much less go out of their way to make nursing staff feel appreciated. Nurse Ronna sums it up this way: “I get nothing at my job. I silently wish myself a â€˜Happy Nurses Week.’ Sad, isn’t it?” Yes, yes it is.
You might think there’s nothing worse than being ignored during a holiday that’s supposed to celebrate the contributions of your profession. You’d be wrong. We’ve collected tales below about the most insulting Nurses Week “celebration” efforts ever. We think you’ll agree: These are way worse than nothing!
“Cheap” doesn’t even begin to describe the types of “gifts” bestowed on nurses to show appreciation for all their hard work. Here are just a few examples of the generosity shown by hospital administrators in the gift selection department:
- Pens, pens and more pens (including those that don’t work and ones with blue ink when only black ink is permitted for workplace use)
- Socks that caused edema and cut off circulation
- A rubber jar opener
- Key chains
- Coffee mugs (valued at $0.50 each)
- Coin purses (to carry all that sweet cash nurses make)
- Lanyards (given to nurses who worked on a psych ward and couldn’t wear them)
- Navy bath towels that weren’t color fast (leading to a full load of blue laundry)
- A wilted rose in a urinal (don’t ask)
Many of these gifts either boasted the hospital’s own logo or the branding of a supplier who gave the stuff to the hospital as promotional freebies. Even more shocking than the cheap gifts are the ones that are given and then taken away. Nurse Deanna P. describes a bizarre experience at her job: “We had a bench donated to the hospital gardens â€˜from the nurses’ with hospital money for Nurses Week. But then were told we aren’t allowed to sit on the bench because it looks bad to the public.”
Nurses support each other every day at work. If that wasn’t true, no one would make it in this job. But that doesn’t mean nurses should have to pay for their own week of celebration. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for hospitals to ask nurses to fund their own party. For example, nurses can participate in a nice gift basket raffle—if they buy a basket to donate.
Nurse Julie D. says the trend of expecting nurses to foot the bill is an ongoing problem at her workplace: “The nurses were told to bring in their own potluck organization-wide…not once, but two years in a row! Nothing says â€˜We appreciate you’ like â€˜After work tonight, you need to go out and buy something, then make it and bring it in tomorrow so people on other units whom you don’t even know can eat it!’ So LAME!”
Nurse Joy B. reveals that things are the same where she works: “Our hospital required each department to â€˜host a station’ for the other nursing departments to come to. Sounds nice, right? Not when you consider we had to pay for the supplies to promote our station and the goodies that were given out!”
There’s one upside to asking nurses to bring their own food to a potluck dinner: At least some of the food won’t suck. Here’s an overview of the kinds of choices employers make when you leave the food delivery up to them:
- A tray of sandwiches (delivered a week late since the DON forgot about Nurses Week)
- A plate of cookies
- A single bag of microwave popcorn
- Stale cupcakes and apple cider (given to a night shift with several diabetic nurses on staff)
- Pulled pork (not the tasty Jamaican cuisine kind, just the cheap stuff)
- A melted Klondike bar (what would you do for one of those?)
Nursing isn’t a nine-to-five job, but you’d never know it by the way Nurses Week celebrations are planned. It’s like they think everyone who isn’t there during the day Monday through Friday doesn’t exist. What are you supposed to do, come in to celebrate during your time off?
Dawn McKinney talks about one really boneheaded move by a previous employer: “At the hospital where I used to work, Nurses Week was always lame. One year we got a free meal in the cafeteria. The problem was the cafeteria closed at one o’clock and we didn’t even come into work until five.”
Rhonda Campbell talks about how poor planning excludes nurses in other ways: “The rural hospital I work in saves money and decides to celebrate Hospital Week/Nurses Week. So, on that Friday around noon, the maintenance staff cooks hot dogs and hamburgers and all are invited. The only problem is I’m a vegetarian and I work the night shift.”
We always save the best for last. Nurse Teresa G. has the grossest tale of a party that was in poor taste: “Last year we celebrated the very last day of Nurses Week with a â€˜Dive for the Poo’ contest!! Yeah, I’m not sticking my hands in a bedpan filled with Mountain Dew and a Snickers bar! I would’ve rather not celebrated! The prize was a company pen!” At least they didn’t make the nurses go fishing face first like an apple-bobbing contest.
Nurses, we’re opening up the floor: Tell us your worst Nurses Week story! We promise not to punish the best one with a Scrubs pen (we don’t have any!).