Our Nurses Week theme this year is “Today, and every day, we celebrate the light you bring, the difference you make, and the lives you change.” It feels especially poignant to me because of the broad and deep challenges the world is facing. Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Canadian Plains Cree First Nations speaker Roxanne Tootoosis, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper, speak at a virtual event. She explained that the Plains Cree nation believes that the Creator sees us all as beams of light and not through our external bodies. Therefore, in their beliefs, the Creator does not see gender, race, age, disability, or the like—only beams of light. My simple explanation here does not do her talk justice, but the concept resonated with me and with this year’s Nurses Week theme with the light we bring.
As nurses, we bring light through our work, whether that work is directly with recipients of our care or with the next generation of nurses and nurse scholars. Almost all nurses have experienced someone offering immense gratitude for what we do. And most of us are uncomfortable or even a little embarrassed by this; “I was just doing my job” is a common response. But we really do owe it to ourselves to recognize our contributions while also striving to always be better and do better.
It’s been a challenging year in so many ways—the pandemic and issues of continued injustice and racism to name just two—that it can seem insurmountable. But nurses have also shown our best. Despite dire working conditions and mistreatment by some parts of the public, we keep showing up. And yes, it is our job, but it takes commitment to keep showing up. No group of nurses has escaped the impact, and while there is much work to do, I know Sigma members are leaders. As a result, we have an even more important role to play now.
Nurses’ voices are critical in advocating for change within their organizations or institutions, as well as at all levels of government. We don’t all need to work on the same issues; there are multiple issues that any one of us can choose to work on and multiple organizations that can use our talents. If we all chose one group to work with, think of the difference we could make. Even if only Sigma members—all 135,000 of us from more than 100 countries—chose one group to work with, we could help make substantial changes. We can change lives by making a difference, by shining our lights, and by helping others to find their own lights to shine and recognizing the shining lights in others.
This year, more than ever, it’s time for nurses and Sigma nurses to help heal the world.
Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers of US children’s television, put it beautifully: “At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.” As nursing leaders, this is how we make a difference and change lives. Thank you for all that you do for nursing and in the service of people globally. I hope you feel loved and appreciated every day of the year, but as always, I’m looking forward to celebrating you and all nurses around the world a little extra the week of 6-12 May.
Elizabeth “Liz” Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN