Nurses, as a group, form one of the most important constituencies of healthcare professionals in the world. Each year, we celebrate nurses with "National Nurses Week," which begins on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale's birthday. Nurses certainly deserve their share of the spotlight, and for a much longer time period than the allotted week. From supporting physicians in surgeries to performing home visits to the elderly, nurses go above and beyond their expectations to consistently deliver quality care.
Nurses, in many ways, constitute the collective face of healthcare. This is true in a clinical setting, where assessment and patient mindset are directly influenced by the nurse-patient relationship.
It's true in the academic setting, where nurse educators help shape the future of the profession by passing along established best practices and bringing new techniques learned on the job into the class setting.
It's true, also, in the area of medical research, where nurses conduct studies and supervise surveys that break scientific ground to help improve patient outcomes and enhance end-of-life and palliative care.
It is certainly true during this COVID-19 crisis. Nurses are the backbone of patient care and are being called heroes during this emergency.
Here's a quick breakdown of the most historic dates in the progressive evolution of National Nurses Week, as provided by the American Nurses Association.
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 the bill for a nurse week. Apparently, a bill was introduced in the 1955 Congress, but no action was taken. Congress discontinued its practice of joint resolutions 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.
1974 — In January, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12 would be "International Nurse Day" (The ICN has celebrated it since 1965). In February, a week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, and President Nixon issued a proclamation.
1978 — New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as "Nurses Day." Edward Scanlan, of Red Bank, N.J., took up the cause to perpetuate the recognition of nurses in his state. Scanlan had this date listed in Chase's Calendar of Annual Events. He promoted the celebration on his own.
1981 — ANA and various other 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 — In February, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982 as "National Nurses Day." The action affirmed a joint resolution of Congress designating May 6 as "National Recognition Day for Nurses." President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25.
1990 — The ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition, declaring May 6 - 12, 1991 as National Nurses Week.
1993 — The ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 - 12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and all subsequent years.
1996 — The ANA initiated "National RN Recognition Day" on May 6, to honor the nation's indispensable registered nurses for their tireless commitment 365 days a year, and encouraged its state and territorial nurses associations and other organizations to acknowledge the day.
1997 — The ANA Board of Directors, at the request of the National Student Nurses Association, designated May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.
Nurses are in demand in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be an estimated 3.4 million nurses in the U.S. by 2026. That's an addition to the nursing job force of more than 438,000 positions.
The profession is expected to grow at a rate of 15% through 2026, according to BLS projections, which is more than twice the growth rate of all occupations (7%).
The Dale Association is privileged to have three of the most caring and dedicated nurses on our staff. This is a great time to say thank you to our nurses, Vicki DiMaria, Sue Esposito and Rosa Falso, who play an important role at our agency through their nursing services. I appreciate their devotion as nurses and to our clients.
One of our nurses, Vicki, shared this: "Nurses provide care, compassion and comfort in a professional way to improve patients' lives. With the current world situation, this has been shown more than ever. I am proud of the nursing profession and of so many dedicated individuals who fulfill this demanding and challenging role."
She goes on to share one of her favorite quotes by Pirkei Avot:
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly now.
Love mercy now.
Walk humbly now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Nurses everywhere deserve recognition during this special week and always!
Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com .