The Origins of Nurses Week
- State and city proclamations
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A movement to give nurses a day or a week to honor their role began in the early 1950s, but it was a quiet affair. American Nurses Association (ANA) gave it limelight in 1993 after officially designating May 6-12 as permanent dates for nurses week. The effort to establish a formal period for recognition of nurses has gone through several variations including a presidential proclamation by President Richard Nixon in 1974 designated a week in February to commemorate national nurse week. His announcement was a follow-up to that by an international council of nurses.
Nurses' week started with a nurse day. In 1953 an official at the United States Department of health sent a proposal to President Eisenhower asking him to proclaim a “Nurses Day” the following year in October. The President did not fulfill the request, but nurses observed a National Nurse Week on October 11-16 in 1954. October 1954 was also the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s Crimea mission. Nurses observed the 100 year anniversary of a ground-breaking mission by Nightingale to provide medical care to fighters in the Crimean war. Her work at Crimea initiated reforms in the sanitary practices in UK and other places.
U.S Congress representative Frances P. Bolton introduces a bill to establish a permanent National Nurse week in 1955 after the first nurse week celebration in 1954. The bill and an attempt to revive it in 1972 failed.
1n 1978, the New Jersey Governor at that time Brendon Byrne declared May 6 to be a Nurses Day. By 1982 ANA board of directors gave a formal acknowledgement to May 6 as the National Nurses Day. The proclamation to proclaim May 6, 1982, as the “National Recognition Day for Nurses” got the Presidential sign from President Ronald Reagan. The extension of the celebration to a week took place in 1990 with the ANA Board of Directors designating May 6-12 as the permanent dates for observing nurses week in 1994 and other subsequent years.
Wednesday of every National nurses' week got a designation to be a National School Nurse Day in 2003. A celebration of Nurses Week has become an annual affair since then to recognize that nurses are essential constituencies of health professionals and make up the collective face healthcare.
Nurses and other people can celebrate a national nurses' week in many ways. Nurses have more interest in the observance and should take time for reflecting and celebrating their profession. Those who are not in the trade know a nurse who is close to them, and they should take time to acknowledge the role they play in healthcare.