Every year, National Nurses Week focuses attention on the diverse ways America's 3.1 million registered nurses work to save lives and to improve the health of millions of individuals. This year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has selected "Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care" as the theme for 2013.
National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12. These permanent dates enhance planning and position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event.
The first proposal for a "Nurse Day" was sent in 1953 to President Eisenhower by Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The proposal was for a day to be set aside in October of the next year, but a proclamation was never made.
A year later, the first National Nurse Week was observed from October 11 through 16, the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea. Nightingale is heralded as the founder of nursing as a modern profession.
But while a bill during the 1955 Congress was introduced for a national celebration, no action was taken. It was also during this time that Congress discontinued the practice of joint resolutions for national weeks of various kinds.
Again in 1972, a resolution was presented by the House of Representatives for the President to proclaim "National Registered Nurse Day". However, the proclamation did not occur.
Two years later in January, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12--the birthday of Nightingale--would be "International Nurse Day." The next month, a week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, as President Nixon issued a proclamation.
In 1978, representatives in New Jersey pushed for a day to recognize nurses. And in 1981, nurses in New Mexico sought national recognition through their congressman for a resolution to nationally recognize nurses.
Only a year later--in the month of February--did the ANA board of directors formally acknowledge May 6, 1982 to be "National Nurses Day". The move by the board supported a resolution by the U.S. Congress, as they had designated May 6 as "National Recognition Day for Nurses."
Additionally, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25 of that same year, setting aside the "National Recognition Day for Nurses" for May 6.
The ANA board took action a few years later in 1990, when they expanded the honoring of nurses to become a week-long celebration. Thus, National Nurses Week would be held on May 6 - 12, 1991.
Two years later, the ANA board of directors made the week a permanent date to celebrate National Nurses week in 1994 and from every year thereafter.
In 1996, "National RN [Registered Nurse] Recognition Day" was initiated on May 6 by the ANA. The date honors the continual commitment demonstrated by registered nurses.
Another specific day, May 8, was set aside in 1997. "National Student Nurses Day" was requested by the NSNA (National Student Nurses Association), which was granted by the ANA board.
The day was first celebrated in 1998 and is an annual occurrence. And starting in 2003, National School Nurse Day has been celebrated every year on the Wednesday during National Nurses Week.