Nurses are a cornerstone of the modern health care system, but they might not always get the recognition they deserve. That changes this week. May 6 marks the start of National Nurses Week, an annual commemoration that ends each year on May 12, the birthday of perhaps the most famous nurse of all time – Florence Nightingale.
The origins of a national, weeklong commemoration date to 1953 when Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, requested that President Eisenhower proclaim a “Nurse Day” in October of the following year. In 1954, the nation observed the first “National Nurse Week” from October 11 to 16. The dates marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. But that celebration was a one-time event. A formal week long designation would not come for decades.
In 1974, the International Council of Nursing proclaimed May 12 as “International Nurses Day.” Within the United States, some states chose on their own to designate a particular day each year to celebrate these healthcare professionals. But it was not until 1982 that President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation designating May 6 as a national day of recognition. Eight years later, this annual commemoration was expanded to a full week, from May 6 to May 12. Since 1994, and those days have been the fixed dates for National Nurses Week.
The 2015 theme for this celebration is “Ethical Practice. Quality Care.” Several events nationwide will mark the annual celebration, including a showing of the movie “The American Nurse Healing America.” The American Nurse Project will host special showings of the film at 150 theaters across the country on May 6 to kick off this anniversary week. Also, the American Nurses Association will host a free webinar titled “My Patient, My Code, My Practice: Ethical-Decision-Making and Action.”
Nursing is a growing profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing will grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average of all occupations. The field has changed since the days of Florence Nightingale, but the mission of care remains the same.
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