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A quick history of Nurses Day

National Nurses Day is always celebrated today, May 6, and opens National Nurses Week. National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birth date of Florence Nightingale.

The history of Nurses Day can be traced back to 1953 when Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a “Nurse Day” in October of the following year. The proclamation was never made, but the following year National Nurses Week was observed from October 11 – 16, marking the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea.

“Our work on the floor was hard. We had many typhoid patients and also had malaria in large numbers, pneumonia and many cases seldom seen now. We did not then have the medication, vaccines and antibiotics now available … Our hours were long and hard, but our patients had the best care of any hospital any place,” said Mary Watkins, a 1913 graduate of Baylor School of Nursing class. Pictured above is the first graduating class from Baylor’s Training School for Nurses in 1911.

In 1974, President Nixon proclaimed a “National Nurse Week.” In 1981, a resolution was initiated by nurses in New Mexico to have May 6th declared “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” This proposal was promoted by the ANA Board of Directors and in 1982, with a joint resolution, the United States Congress designated May 6 to be “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” The proposal was signed by President Reagan, making May 6 the official “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” It was later expanded by the ANA Board of Directors in 1990 to a week-long celebration (May 6-12) known as “National Nurses Week.”

Please take the time to thank any nurses you know. They represent a large portion of our staff and deserve to be thanked, not just on this day, but every day.

2 thoughts on “A quick history of Nurses Day”

  1. Pingback: To our nurses and nurses everywhere | Scrubbing In

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A quick history of Nurses Day