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Toby's Take: Health System Week Might as Well Be Nurses Week, and Vice Versa

Stethoscope laying on a table against a blurred clinical background

May 11, 2022

We are celebrating Health System Week at The University of Kansas Health System. And it seems this blog, less than 10 posts in, should give that plenty of attention. But I had already “gone there.” So far, I’ve written about Lab Week and Donate Life Month. And wouldn’t you know that an absolute biggie is taking place right on top of Health System Week?

It all works out.

Celebrations all around!

This is also Nurse and Nursing Support Staff Week, and around here, that’s a big darn deal, as my boss is fond of saying. Nurses Week doesn’t always fall neatly on a work week. It’s observed from May 6 through May 12, the latter the birth date of famed nurse Florence Nightingale. Health System Week also corresponds with national observances.

“Nurses Week and Health System Week provide us an annual opportunity to continue that focus when these events are celebrated in hospitals and health systems across the nation,” said Terry Rusconi, our chief culture officer. “The energy and excitement from staff at these events are high, reminding us that everything we can do to thank, recognize and celebrate our teams matters.”

If I had to choose between the 2, I couldn’t. Thankfully, both weeks might as well be 1 and the same. Nursing is as important to the health system as the spine is to the back. The backbone, you could say.

“Yes, I believe (nurses) are the backbone of healthcare,” said Rachel Pepper, our chief nursing officer in Kansas City. “But I also believe they are the heart of healthcare. Nurses are the constant in a patient’s experience. They’re there days, nights, evenings and weekends.”

Nurses touch every patient in the health system. True, we wouldn’t have a health system without physicians, housekeeping, administrators, security and every single other person who makes up the 13,000+ employees we celebrate during Health System Week.

Nurses are the constant in a patient’s experience. They’re there days, nights, evenings and weekends ... And equally important is the emotional care they give. People tell nurses things they don’t tell anyone else. – Rachel Pepper

Chief Nursing Officer, Kansas City Division

'The heart of healthcare'

Nurses are unique.

“They’re clinical experts who are literally making lifesaving and life-extending decisions for their patients,” Pepper said. “And equally important is the emotional care they give. People tell nurses things they don’t tell anyone else.”

She related a story about being on the floor recently, chatting with a patient nearing the end of his life but still able to reflect in detail about his experiences. Each nurse treating him made a point to stop in several times to hear those stories. They seemed to love it as much as he loved telling them his story.

“What I really learned from that experience,” Pepper said, “is that nurses many times are helping a patient synthesize what their life is like. They help in big ways and small ways, and a lot of time they don’t even know because they do it all the time.”

Valued and front-and-center. Consider these examples.

An unstoppable team

The combo of Health System Week and Nurses Week serves as reminder that we can be unstoppable if (cliché ahead) we work together. Through these first 8 blogs and my first 12 months at the health system, it’s clear to me that’s not an issue. Never have I seen a more cohesive group digging into it daily to accomplish quality and safety. These are not talking points. These are real efforts to be the best health system around.

One more cliché before I wrap this up: You bet your boots that’s worth celebrating.

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