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The History Of National Nurse's Week

National Nurses Week is observed in the United States each year beginning on May 6 and concluding on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the pioneering nurse considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing. This celebratory week also encompasses National Student Nurses Day (May 8th) and National School Nurse Day (the Wednesday of National Nurses Week). 

It is estimated that by the year 2022, less than a decade from now, the United States will need as many as 1 million more nurses to care for an aging population and the increasing number of people who will have access to healthcare on account of the Affordable Care Act. Nursing has been rated as the most ethical and honest profession in America by the annual Gallup survey for 14 years running, and National Nurses Week is the much-deserved celebration of these individuals who perform physically and emotionally draining work in work conditions that can often be hazardous.

The history of National Nurse's Week

The idea for the first National Nurses Week was created more than six decades ago, in 1953, when Dorothy Sutherland (who worked at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) first proposed to President Eisenhower that a Nurse Day ought to be observed in October.

In 1954 the first National Nurse's Week was observied from October 11-16 to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to care for British soldiers fighting the Crimean War. Although a bill was introduced in Congress by Representative Frances P. Bolton in 1955, no action resulted because Congress had discontinued the practice of national weeks in general for that year.

It wasn't until nearly two decades later that there was another attempt for a week of nurses' recognition. In 1974, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) began celebrating May 12 (Florence Nightingale's birthday) as International Nurse Day, and the practice has continued to this day. President Nixon issued a proclamation for National Nurses Week in February 1974. 

In 1990, the ANA expanded the event to a week-long celebration, calling it National Nurses Week, to be observed from May 6 to May 12, beginning in 1991. These dates became permanent in 1993 as this was deemed helpful in planning and promoting the event. 

Our communities' way of saying thank you

For the past quarter of a century, National Nurses Week has been a celebration and recognition of the invaluable work that nurses do and a means to thank them for their dedication and hard work. This meaningful holiday also honors Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, whose vision for nursing was far beyond her time and who campaigned tirelessly to improve healthcare through nursing practices.

This event dedicated to the nurses who aid our community is supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA), an organization which today represents the interests of approximately 3.4 million registered nurses in the nation. National Nurses week is intended to be a recognition of the nursing profession at the regional, state, and national levels and a celebration of the contributions that the nursing community as a whole makes to society and healthcare.