Or should this be titled “A Nurses’ Guide…?” This is one of the biggest and most serious questions every healthcare professional in America is struggling with today. Where, when, and how do we properly use the possessive apostrophe? In order to get our healthcare system back on track, we all need to know. And, contrary to a belief that is gaining popularity in America and England, the possessive apostrophe is not archaic or quaint.
Every day I see it used and abused in so many ways by our students. Therefore, we needed an easy to use guide to get us all onto the same page. And it doesn’t help our righteous cause any that some medical publications, organizations, and websites are also inconsistent in their use of the possessive apostrophe. So, here is my little guide.
b. That nurse’s scrubs are colorful.
c. They are Nurse Jane’s colorful scrubs.
d. These colorful scrubs belong to Nurse Jane.
e. They are Nurse Carlos’ colorful scrubs.
f. Nurse Jane’s friend’s colorful scrubs. (correct, but awkward, so re-write it another way)
a. The nurses’ scrubs are colorful. (every nurse in a group have colorful scrubs)
b. Those nurses’ scrubs are colorful.
c. All the nurses’ scrubs are colorful.
d. Every nurse has colorful scrubs.
e. All nurses have colorful scrubs.
In the above examples, all of the nurses being discussed have colorful scrubs.
a. The nurses usually get here at 6:45 in the morning. (meaning all the nurses)
b. The nurse usually gets here at 6:45 in the morning. (meaning one of the nurses)
c. Nurse Jane usually gets here at 6:45 in the morning.
d. Both nurses usually get here at 6:45 in the morning.
e. Every nurse gets here at 6:45 in the morning.
f. Every nurse in that unit gets here at 6:45 in the morning.
Organization Name Examples
a. St. George’s Nurses Association
b. St. George’s Nurses’ Association
c. St. Georges Nurses Association
d. St. George’s Nurses’ Association’s Newsletter
e. St. George’s Nurses’ Association Newsletter
f. St. Georges Hospital
g. St. George’s Hospital’s nurses are here to help. (correct, but awkward, so re-write it another way)
In the above examples, the placement of the apostrophe is at the discretion of the organization itself. Whichever way they choose to display and use their name, that is the way we should write it.
More Organization Name Examples
a. International Nurses’ Day (for all nurses)
b. International Nurse’s Day (for one nurse, as in Mother’s Day)
c. International Nurses Day (today, the apostrophe is usually left out)
d. The International Nurses’ Day’s celebration ceremony will take place in the conference room. (awkward, re-write)
e. The International Nurses’ Day celebration ceremony will take place in the conference room.
f. The web address might then become: InternationalNursesDay (a hypothetical example)
In the above examples, the placement of the apostrophe is also at the discretion of the founding organization itself.
When we write we have an obligation to our readers to write as clearly as possible. And using the possessive apostrophe in the proper way goes a long way in helping our readers understand what we are trying to say to them. Understanding where, when, and how to properly use the possessive apostrophe is not difficult. And if its use creates an awkward sentence, the sentence can simply be re-written in a better way. Don’t let the apostrophe critics convince you otherwise. Here in the real world we writers must show respect for our subject matter and our readers. Using the possessive apostrophe in the proper way will help your readers fix the world’s healthcare problems and make our world a better place to live in. If you see anything here that needs more explanation, or needs to be corrected, let me know. Long live the possessive apostrophe!