The History of Nurses Week

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Nurses Week is an opportunity to honor the hard work and dedication that nurses have toward their patients and coworkers every day. It begins with National Nurses Day on May 6th and ends with Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12th. The festivities, including public education for health careers, are supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA) as well as individual medical clinics and communities that recognize outstanding nurses.

The First Stirrings of Nurse Recognition

While you may be familiar with Nurses Week and these individual holidays, you probably don’t know that Nurses Week didn’t exist in its current form until the 1990’s. In fact, the entire idea of commemorating a calendar period for nurses didn’t exist in documented form until 1953, when a proposal for Nurses Day was sent to President Eisenhower from Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The letter went unanswered but it opened up a line of future motions toward nurse recognition.

The following year in 1954, certain independent organizations celebrated Nurses Week from October 11th-16th in commemoration of Florence Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War. Events like this continued to be held annually with no national backing, all the way up until 1972 when yet another bid for recognition was sent to the White House and denied.

White House Proclamation

Finally, the International Council of Nurses declared May 12th as International Nurses Day in 1974. One month later, President Nixon threw his weight behind the cause with a formal proclamation that May 12th retain the name.

The governor of New Jersey instigated National Nurses Day on May 6th, 1978. Starting in 1981, the ANA began rallying for the same. This culminated in a national declaration signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Recent Updates to Nurses Week

In 1990, the ANA shined a spotlight on the entire week from May 6th-12th as National Nurses Week. A few years later in 1997 and 1998, more days within the week were assigned. Included within National Nurses Week is RN Recognition Day (May 6th) and Student Nurse Day (May 8th).

Which days mean the most to you? Does your clinic celebrate in any specific way?

History_NurseThis year, honor your own contributions to the field by treating yourself to new nursing scrubs and equipment from Tafford. You deserve it!

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