Jones & Bartlett Learning Nursing Blog

    A History of National Nurses Week

    Posted by Katie Hennessy on May 6, 2012 1:54:54 PM

    To help celebrate National Nurses Week, May 6-12, 2012, guest blogger Sam Omulligan wrote this comprehensive history of the day and week celebrating the important work that nurses accomplish.

    For their tireless efforts to support and comfort the weak, injured and sick during times of peace and times of war, it’s only fitting that nurses should have some time set aside in their honor.

    Since the early 1990s, National Nurses Week has been observed as a way to recognize the contributions of nurses nationwide. The week-long observance begins May 6 and ends May 12, which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the 19th century nurse who is considered to be the founder of modern nursing.

    The idea for a nationwide event honoring nurses dates to 1953, when an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent a proposal to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The first National Nurse Week was celebrated in 1954, which was the 100th anniversary of Nightingale's nursing mission during the Crimean War.

    Although there were many additional requests to institute an official observance it took 20 years to accomplish that level of recognition.  In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon declared that a week should be dedicated in honor of nurses and their work. Formal state declarations followed, including in New Jersey and New Mexico.

    Finally, eight years after President Nixon's initial declaration, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 6, 1982, as National Recognition Day for Nurses.

    Those efforts and presidential declarations culminated in what is now known as National Nurses Week. In 1993, the American Nurses Association (ANA) declared that May 6 to 12 should be observed annually as National Nurses Week.

    During the week of recognition, individual days have been set aside for a variety of specialties within the nursing field.  National RN Recognition Day is May 6, National Student Nurses Day is May 8 and the Wednesday during National Nurses Week is National School Nurse Day.

    Nurses find their careers through many avenues. Perhaps it had been a dream since childhood to care for the sick and injured or maybe it was the discovery that nursing could offer the guarantee of a stable job and professional fulfillment.

    Whatever their reasons for choosing the profession, nurses should be proud of their long history of caring for the most vulnerable.

    Changes in healthcare regulations, insurance coverage, technology and other factors mean nurses today must balance many demands while continuing to strive for excellence. The dedication, compassion and diligence of nurses have helped make their profession among the most respected.

    Clearly, there is much to celebrate about the nursing profession. The investment of one week of recognition is a small token of society’s appreciation for nurses.

    Sam Omulligan is a writer and educator interested in finding and sharing information relating to the healthcare profession. Sam primarily works with and for nurses who have an interest in better Online Nursing Schools as well as developing a more substantial career.

    Topics: National Nurses Week, nursing

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