2020 was designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of The Nurse, which coincided with one of the biggest epidemics humankind has ever experienced, the coronavirus pandemic. Our health and the strength of the nation’s over 4 million registered nurses give us comfort and every year in May, we celebrate their unique place in America’s health care system.
While most nurses work in an acute-care system like hospitals, rehabs, treatment centers, and emergency rooms, their skills and enterprise also extend to independent resources such as private clinics, home health care, and nursing homes. In any form, they are indispensable. Since its inception, the American National Association (ANA) has advocated for nursing at both state and the regional level.
A Brief History
In February of 1982, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982, as the “National Nurses Day.” The action affirmed a joint resolution of the United States Congress designating May 6 as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”
- In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6.
- In 1990, the ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6 – 12, 1991, as National Nurses Week.
- In 1993, the ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 – 12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and subsequent years.
Celebrated for the first time in 1993, National Nurses was traditionally a week-long celebration starting on May 6 and ending on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. From last year forward, it is an entire month-long celebration to recognize selfless contributions, and creating more opportunities as we recognize the positive impact on the nation’s healthcare system.
It’s an all-inclusive celebration of nurses. There are, however, specific days to celebrate the different types. May 6 is National School Nurse Day, and May 8 is dedicated to student nurses, named the National Student Nurses Day. May 12 is International Nurses Day!
Professional Nursing – How It All Started
The origin of nursing dates back to the mid-19 century, much before professional nursing came to light. Florence Nightingale played an instrumental role in changing the nature of nursing later in the century. Despite her wealthy background and education, she defied social convention and chose to become a nurse.
Thanks to her discipline and vision of proper hygienic practices while tending to injured soldiers in the Crimean War, she ushered in understanding professional treatment outside of the home. The death rate sharply reduced from 42% to 2%. No one had witnessed that kind of success rate. Professional nursing found its flagbearer and what we today recognize as a full-fledged department in the healthcare system. (National Today, 2021)
The role of nurses continued to grow. Wars were happening, and poor hygiene often lead to infection and death. It became essential to call nurses to the frontline of battles to take care of the wounded soldiers.
Professional nursing gained further momentum with opening the first nursing school in London in 1860, followed by more school openings. Aspiring nurses could undergo appropriate training and education before beginning their formal practice on the job. (Smith, 2019)
Growing Need for Professional Nurses in 2021
Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex, but for centuries, nurses have been the backbone of the industry. Especially during the pandemic, their response and selfless service have shown their true potential and brought the profession forward.
Some retired nurses even came back to help fight the pandemic. In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pressed states to re-license retired health care workers.
The need for professional nurses is on the rise. By 2022, we will see more registered nurse (RN) jobs than any other profession, at more than 100,000 per year. (ANA 2021)
The pandemic demonstrated that the nursing workforce is essential. The core mission still the same, taking care of patients and returning them back to good health.
Celebrate All Nurses
Nurses are trained professionals. With the nature of their job, they often forget to take care of themselves. It’s important for us to reach out to the nurses in our lives and thank them for their hard work and dedication. We are still navigating unknowns in healthcare and our future relies on supporting and nurturing our nurses, an important, essential human resource.
“Nurses by the Numbers.” 2020NurseandMidwife, 2021, 2020nurseandmidwife.org/nurses-by-the-numbers/.
ANA, American Nurses Association. “History of National Nurses Week: American Nurses Association.” ANA, 2021, www.nursingworld.org/education-events/national-nurses-week/history/.
National Today, Staff. “National Nurses Day – May 6, 2021.” National Today, 21 Mar. 2021, nationaltoday.com/national-nurses-day/. ANA, American Nurses Association. “Workforce – Nursing .” ANA, 2021, www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/.