Happy Nurses Week! We want to recognize the energy and commitment you give every day to being a nurse, whether you’re on the floor or in a leadership role. We applaud you!
National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The first “National Nurse Week” was observed from October 11-16, 1954. That year marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. That was the only year Nurse Week was observed until the ANA expanded the recognition of nurses from one day to an entire week in 1990 and the May 6 – 12 dates have been the national standard since 1994.
National Nurses Week is a time to celebrate and recognize nurses who work in every field in healthcare, but it is also a time to reflect on how far nursing has come. And to do that we need to look at the woman who started it all – Florence Nightingale. Many of you most likely know her story: born in 1820 in Florence, Tuscany, came to prominence during the Crimean War, and laid the foundation for professional nursing by establishing a nursing school in London. In 1912, the International Committee of the Red Cross instituted the Florence Nightingale Medal, which is awarded every two years to nurses or nursing aides for outstanding service. We’ve been celebrating International Nurses Day on her birthday since 1965. And statues of Florence can be seen around England.
But did you know that her parents didn’t want her to enter the nursing field? They were an affluent family who ran with elite social circles and expected Florence to get married and start a family. Florence, however, had a different idea. She started caring for the ill and poor in her village at an early age and by the time she was 16, decided that nursing was her calling. Her nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” was earned during the Crimean War when she would make rounds well past dark, armed only with a lamp, providing comfort to injured soldiers. Besides being a gifted nurse, Nightingale possessed strong math skills. She became a pioneer in the visual presentation of information and statistical graphs and is credited with developing the polar area diagram to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality.
As we reflect on the history of nursing, we also look forward to the future and know that with the strong, compassionate, and driven nurses we have in the field today, that future will be bright. Thank you all, and again, happy Nurses Week!
*If you are interested in learning WWFD – or What Would Florence Do – check out the new book by ANPD member Sue Johnson, PhD, RN-BC, NE-BC, What Would Florence Do? A Guide for New Nurse Managers available here.