Celebrate National Nurses Week: May 6-12

Celebrate National Nurses Week: May 6-12

National Nurses Week, May 6 – 12, is just around the corner! This year’s theme is Nurses: Your Voice, Your Health, Your Life

History of National Nurses Week

“Nurses are the True Spirit of Caring” is this year’s theme for National Nurses Week, celebrated May 6-12 each year. National Nurses Week ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. These permanent dates enhance planning and position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event. As of 1998, May 8 was designated as National Student Nurses Day, to be celebrated annually, as well.

The nursing profession has been supported and promoted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) since 1897. Each of ANA’s 54 constituent member associations promotes the nursing profession at the state and regional levels. Each conducts celebrations on these dates to recognize the contributions that nurses and nursing make to the community.

The ANA supports and encourages National Nurses Week recognition programs throughout the state and district nurses associations, other specialty nursing organizations, educational facilities, and independent health care companies and institutions.

A brief history of National Nurses Week

1953 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.

1954 National Nurse Week was observed from October 11-16. The year of the observance marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. Representative Frances P. Bolton sponsored a bill for a nurse week. Apparently, a bill for a National Nurse Week was introduced in the 1955 Congress, but no action was taken. Congress discontinued its practice of joint resolulions for national weeks of various kinds.

1972 Again, a resolution was presented by the House of Representatives for the President to proclaim “National Registered Nurse Day.” It did not occur.

1973 In January of that year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12 would be “International Nurse Day.” (May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale.) Since 1965, the ICN has celebrated “International Nurse Day.”

1978 New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as “Nurse Day.” Edward Scanlan, of Red Bank, N.J., took up the cause to perpetuate the recognition of nurses in his state. Mr. Scanlan had this date listed in Chase’s Calendar of Annual Events. He promoted the celebration on his own.

1981 ANA, along with various nursing organizations, rallied to support a resolution initiated by nurses in New Mexico, through their Congressman, Manuel Lujan, to have May 6, 1982, established as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”

1982 President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Nurses Week” in 1994 and in all subsequent years.

1990 The ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6 – 12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and in all subsequent years.

1993 The ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 – 12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and in all subsequent years.

1996 The ANA initiated “National RN Recognition Day” on May 6, 1996, to honor the nation’s indispensable registered nurses for their tireless commitment 365 days a year. The ANA encourages its 53 state and territorial nurses associations and other organizations to acknowledge May 6, 1996 as “National RN Recognition Day.”

1997 The ANA Board of Directors, at the request of the request of the National Student Nurses Association, designated May 8 as National Nurses Day.

Suggestions on How to Celebrate National Nurses Week

* Hold a special celebration or reception to recognize a nurse or several nurses in your community. These nurses could be honored for heroic acts, years of service to the community, exemplary courage, or their commitment to the nursing profession over the years.

* Promote a positive, realistic image of registered nurses by sponsoring health fairs, conducting preventive screenings in under-served areas, organizing a walk-a-thon, etc.

* Invite a politician – local, state, or federal – to accompany a nurse or several nurses at their place of employment for a day or part of a day. Health care remains an issue of tremendous importance to voters. Politicians should be visible and accountable for their positions on health care. This is a win-win situation and it offers good media coverage potential.

* Ask every Nurse to wear an “RN” pin. (Available through ASNA)

* Sponsor a community-wide event, such as a coloring contest or poem writing contest for school children. The children could acknowledge their favorite nurse, a famous nurse, or family member who is a nurse – past or present – in a colorful drawing. The drawing could be displayed in local schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.

* Work cooperatively with hospitals, schools, and libraries to set up a special display for National Nurses Week using promotional materials, such as, pins, T-shirts, posters, etc.

* Host a press conference. Discuss an important health care issue in your community; release the findings of a local survey; honor a registered nurse for a heroic act; or bestow an “honorary” nurse title to a deserving politician or civic leader.

* Organize free cholesterol and/or blood pressure screening in your local community and promote via radio announcements, flyers, posters, etc.

Copyright Alabama State Nurses’ Association Mar-May 2004

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