The History of National Nurses Week
Nursing is a demanding profession. Day after day, nurses dedicate themselves to caring for the sick and weak, giving strength and hope to those who may feel they have none left and providing comfort to patients and their families.
Doctors and others lean on nurses to handle the tasks that allow for daily operations to run smoothly. Even amid the constant turmoil surrounding healthcare, insurance, unions and other issues, nurses give of themselves unselfishly. They put themselves on the frontlines, at times risking their own health, with little fanfare.
During National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 to 12, we are asked to take some time to truly appreciate that nurses are an essential part of the medical field. The observance is designed to honor the multitude of men and women dedicated to caring for others.
It was in 1953 that Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, proposed that President Dwight D. Eisenhower establish a day honoring nurses. Though unsuccessful, the request was just the beginning of a quest that would continue for the next 40 years.
More attempts were made to create a national day of recognition for nurses in 1955 and again in 1972 but no final action was taken by lawmakers. In 1974 the International Council of Nurses (ICN) announced May 12, the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, as International Nurse Day.
There followed much rallying by governors, congressmen and the American Nurses Association (ANA) before President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6, 1982, as National Recognition Day for Nurses. The daylong recognition was expanded to a weeklong observance known as National Nurses Week in the early 1990s.
History is rich with men and women who gave of themselves completely in the medical field, from Florence Nightingale to Georgina Pope, who was given a full military funeral in recognition of her service in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. During National Nurses Week, we celebrate those pioneers, as well as the modern-day heroes of the nursing profession.
Some nurses likely knew from an early age that they wanted to devote themselves to healing and helping patients. Others may have decided later in life to pursue a BSN or MSN degree, perhaps as a second career.
Regardless of the path that led them to nursing, these humanitarians should be proud of their dedication to the cause of caring for others in their time of need.
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 Accredited Online Nursing Schools as well as developing a more substantial career.