National Nurses Week is celebrated annually

Press Release


DATE: May 5, 2011
CONTACT: Dr. Roxanne Debski- Seigel
Karen Ann Quinlan Memorial Foundation
Offices in Newton & Phillipsburg, NJ & Milford PA.
PHONE: 973-383-0115 toll free 800-882-1117 FAX 973-383-6889

National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

“Dependable, trustworthy, caring,
Living for others, loving, sharing.
At times wondering “Why am I a Nurse?
Is it a Blessing or maybe a curse? “

Because, at times, Nurses are not appreciated,
For the work to which their life is dedicated.
However, Nurses know their job is worthwhile,
when, after a hard day, a patient will smile.”
—Excerpts from a poem by an author who simply calls herself Carlotta and a retired R.N with 41 yrs experience.

So just what is the definition of “nurse” and how did it arrive? Nursing has been called the oldest of arts and the youngest of professions. The history of nursing walks hand in hand with woman herself; but of course the meaning of the word nurse has changed over the course of centuries. The word nursing is derived from the Latin nutrire “to nourish” with its roots in the Latin noun nutrix which means “nursing mother” (This referring to a wet nurse who breast fed the babies of others). The original meaning of the English word was first used in English in the 13th century and its spelling underwent many forms, norrice, (from the French version of nourrice-a woman who suckled a child) nurice or nourice, to the present day, nurse.

By the 16th century the meanings of the noun included “a person, but usually a woman who waits upon or tends to the sick”. Two more components were added during the 19th century; training of those who tend to the sick and the carrying out of such duties under direction of a physician.

Women, because of maternal instincts, were considered “born nurses”. The parental instinct, however, is present in both sexes of all races. It is thought that women present a greater degree of this due to their traditional role in the family. “Yet the spirit of nursing has no sexual boundaries. Human beings of both sexes have a natural tendency to respond to helplessness or a threat to life from disease or injury.”- Donahue, 1996

In our ancient times, a woman cared for her own family. This expanded to taking care of members in her own tribe. As early civilizations progressed, so did nursing as it began to be performed outside the home. This development led to the inclusion and concentration on additional elements: skill, expertise, and knowledge. So as man learned more and more about disease, illnesses, and treating the injured, nursing evolved to become both a nurturing art and a science.

It is why today the head, the heart, and the hands have united to become modern day nursing’s foundation.
In 1971, a nursing theorist by the name of Joyce Travelbee declared, “A nurse does not only seek to alleviate physical pain or render physical care – she ministers to the whole person. The existence of suffering, whether physical, mental or spiritual is the proper concern of the nurse”. (Travelbee, 1971).

Amongst the many new trends and changes in nursing theory and practice today, this is one trend that holds a particular interest for the hospice and home care nurse; the renewed focus on holistic care and the interest in spirituality and spiritual care for the patient as a “whole”. This concept re-emerged in nursing literature in the 1980’s and has stayed and developed on the present day nursing stage. “As a nurse it is very rewarding to be part of people’s lives and to make a difference in their quality of life.” Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice Intake Coordinator Kathleen Hoffman, RN, CHPN continues “particularly in hospice. When families first come to us they are overwhelmed with caregiver stress and once the hospice nurse and team get involved, a peace comes over the whole family.”

The following is 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 the 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 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 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.”

1974 In February of that year, 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. 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 In February, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982 as “National Nurses Day.” The action affirmed a joint resolution of the United States Congress designating May 6 as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”

1982 President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6, 1982.

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.

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 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 National Student Nurses Association, designated May 8 as National Student Nurses Day. –American Nurses Association.

So Happy Nurses Week to all nurses and thank you for choosing nursing!

The Florence Nightingale Pledge

I solemnly pledge myself before God and presence of this assembly; To pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.

I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous
and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.

I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.

With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Juramento de Florence Nightingale

Juro solemnemente ante Dios y en presencia de esta asamblea llevar una vida digna y ejercer mi profesión honradamente.

Me abstendré de todo cuanto sea nocivo o dañino, y no tomare ni suministrare cualquier substancia o producto que sea perjudicial para la salud.

Haré todo lo que este a mi alcance para elevar el nivel de la enfermería y considerare como confidencial toda información que me sea revelada en el ejercicio de mi profesión, así como todos los asuntos familiares en mis pacientes.

Seré una fiel asistente de los médicos y dedicare mi vida al bienestar de las personas confiadas a mi cuidado.

Karen Ann Quinlan Memorial Foundation is passionately dedicated to providing Hospice care for the terminally ill, Bereavement for those who have lost loved ones and Home Care assistance for recovery patients. Serving North and Northwest NJ and the Pike County area PA; please call 800 882 1117 to reach any of our services. Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice, 99 Sparta Ave., Newton, NJ, Karen Ann Quinlan Home Health Care, 755 Memorial Parkway, Phillipsburg, NJ and Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice, 315 West Harford St., Milford, PA. For programs, events, and more information visit

Donahue, M. Patricia, PhD, RN, FAAN, Nursing The Finest Art – An Illustrated History, 2nd Edition, 1996.
American Nurses Association, 2011.

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