Celebrating Nursing Excellence

We can all thank the greeting card and plaque industries for many of the gratuitous, even slightly ridiculous “appreciation days” that proliferate on our calendars each year.  But there’s one acknowledgement day that speaks straight to the heart of North Ottawa, and it’s neither gratuitous nor silly. Nurse Appreciation Day is May 6, and it seems like a marvelous time to stop and say a well-deserved and heartfelt “thank you.”

Traditionally, our nurses nominate one of their peers to receive the Nurse Excellence Award on this day. Dr. Donald Sikkema instituted this award in 1993 as a way to provide peer acknowledgement for a job well done.  We usually celebrate the winner with a tea, a photo, and a small monetary award.

But, as we have all learned, sometimes you need to view traditions through the COVID kaleidoscope and make changes.  This is one such time.  So instead of singling out and honoring one nurse on this day, the committee has chosen to honor all nurses for their heroic work this year.

This has been a tough twelve or so months.  I know many nurses who have quit the profession because of the stress.  You think you know what you’re signing up for when you become a nurse.  You start out full of altruism and a desire to provide the best care you can.  But years like this really test your mental fortitude.  The work is the work, and we know how to handle illness.  But the stress caused by fear and uncertainty…that took things to a whole new level.   Our nurses had to figure out new processes, cope with uncertainty, calm patient fears, and also do the actual work for which they went to school!  There was no time off.  No one escaped the pressure.  In light of all that, how could anyone possibly determine that one nurse’s contribution in this year was somehow more “excellent” than any other nurse’s work?

And this, more than any other year, has been the year of “team.”  Any nurse will tell you that while he or she is directing traffic for a patient, the team of people around them is absolutely vital to the outcome. No one nurse could do it alone, nor would they want to do so! Everyone in the health system has had to step up.

Maybe next year we will be in a place to single out one nurse for his or her service.  But this year, I would like to frame things differently.  I am exceptionally proud of our entire nursing staff, and I am pleased to honor their unique contributions on this day. But on behalf of all nurses, I would also like to thank every single member of the NOCHS team for their unwavering commitment to patient care.   They make excellent nursing possible.

Cynthia VanKampen, Chief of Nursing


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