by Jane Nelson, Executive Director, Oklahoma Nurses Association

Every year, Nurses Week focuses attention on the diverse ways Oklahoma’s 42,000 registered nurses work to provide quality patient care and to improve the health of millions of individuals. This year, “Ethical Practice, Quality Care “ is the selected theme, in recognition of the impact ethical nursing practice has on patient outcomes and the quality of care. The week begins on May 6, RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Registered nurses around the country are encouraged to wear their “RN Pins” in honor of Nurses Week and RN Recognition Day.
Nurses Week is devoted to highlighting the diverse ways in which registered nurses, who comprise the largest health care profession, are working to improve health care. From patient care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and public health to the halls of research institutions, state legislatures, and Congress, the depth and breadth of the nursing profession is meeting the expanding health care needs of American society.
Congresswomen Frances Payne Bolton of Ohio, an advocate for nursing and public health introduced a bill in Congress in 1954 to honor nurses. The year marked the 100th anniversary of nursing profession pioneer Florence Nightingale’s mission to treat wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) established May 12, Nightingale’s birthday, as an annual “International Nurse Day” in 1974. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s, that the American Nurses Association encouraged the recognition of nurses’ contributions to community and national health expanding the event to a week-long event each year.
Today, nurses are leading efforts on three top quality priorities: patient safety, care coordination and patient/family engagement. Up to 20 percent of Medicare patients are re-admitted to hospitals, often because of inadequate care coordination. Medicare now is paying for certain care coordination services, recognizing that the quality of transitional care provided by RNs is crucial to reducing re-admissions.
Nurses provide education, guidance and resources to individuals and/or families managing chronic conditions or an illness. RNs help them understand discharge and care plans, medication regimens, appointment follow-ups, referrals and equipment needs. In addition, Nurses are working with the Partnership for Patients ( a public-private collaboration, to improve patient safety and reduce cost by reducing hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and 30-day hospital re-admissions by 20 percent. With input from a technical panel of national experts, ANA has introduced an innovative, evidence-based method to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), a common hospital-acquired infection and a shortcoming in quality. This tool is available on the ANA website,
The Oklahoma Nurses Association works on behalf of all the nurses in the state to advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice. We do this by promoting a positive and realistic view of nursing while lobbying the State Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.
This work we do at the Capitol can only be strengthened by voices of nurses from across the state. Currently, one member of ONA shoulders the advocacy burden for 35 RNs licensed and working in Oklahoma. We need to lighten their load. Every nurse in this state takes advantage of ONA’s ability to provide a voice for him or her at the Capitol. It is time all nurses became members of the Oklahoma Nurses Association. Each of us is only as strong as the association as a whole. So this week as you celebrate Nurses Week not only wear your RN pin but also become a member of the Oklahoma Nurses Association. This way you can show your dedication and professionalism all year long.
About ONA’s Executive Director-Jane Nelson, CAE was named the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Nurses Association in March 2002. She has 30 years of association management and marketing experience with a variety of organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a master’s degree from Michigan State University.