Nurses Share Their Thoughts on Meaningful Recognition

Article is shared from the the Oregon Center for Nursing. 

Often overlooked by the public, media and policymakers, nurses’ roles and contributions to healthcare have been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic shifts into yet another phase, how can we continue to recognize the contributions of Oregon’s nurses?

Recently, as part of the Oregon Center for Nursing’s (OCN) 20th anniversary “Recognize Nursing” campaign, a new nurse, a nurse educator, and nurse leader shared what nurse recognition looks like and their thoughts on recognizing nursing in the future.

How nurses have been recognized

When the virus started overwhelming U.S. hospitals, the public began thanking nurses for their sacrifice, often calling them heroes.

Jennifer Gentry, regional chief nursing officer for Providence Health & Services, noted that public recognition for nurses came in the form of yard signs, posters, food donations, writing campaigns from students, and media statements.

That early recognition was helpful, said Gentry, MSN, RN, NEA-BC. “Nurses are sacrificing their bodies and hearts daily, and the knowledge that their community understood this and wanted to support them meant a lot.”

For others, that recognition was stressful. “Being called a hero paints you into a corner,” said Patty Barfield, an assistant professor at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing on the Eastern Oregon University campus. “You cannot have a bad day. You cannot fail. But nurses are human. At the height of the pandemic, one nurse told me, ‘Don’t call me a hero. Give me some help: boots on the ground.’”

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