National Nurses Week Celebrated

John M. Dabbs
NurseBermix Studio/Unsplash

National Nurses Week Wraps the Calendar, not starting on Sunday or Monday as some celebrations do. It began on May 6th, and ends on Florence Nightingale's birthday, May 12th.

Ballad Health System promotes nurses week
Ballad Health Celebrates Nurses Week - Encourages VaccinationBallad Heath/Facebook

During the past year, nurses at all Ballad Health System hosptials have worked countless hours and spent many holidays away from their families as they cared for the sick and dying. The pandemic has been especially hard on nurses over the past year. Many are parents also caring for their children while they were out of school

Ballad, like other healthcare systems in the country, recognizes the shortage of nurses and is working with ETSU and other local colleges and universities to lure more people into nursing. One of the most simple and helpful is just to recognize their contribution to healthcare in the region.

Continuing the tradition

Florence Nightingale was the founder of the modern nursing movement. In the wake of the pandemic, nurses are getting a bit more recognition than normal. Nursing is one of the most noble professions and draws nurturing and caring people to its ranks.

Nursing, as with law enforcement and firefighting, often draws families. The pride and satisfaction to come from work that means something is evident. We see many children drawn into the line of work their parents enjoy.

While nursing has changed over the years, the dedication and knowledge remain. It's not an easy job. Nursing requires commitment and a caring attitude. Caring for people who aren't at their best can be taxing at times. It takes a special person to nurture the sick and injured and nurse them back to health.


National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale's birthday. The dates position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event.

  • 1954 National Nurse Week was observed from October 11 - 16. The year marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea.
  • 1972 A congressional resolution passed and presented to the President to proclaim "National Registered Nurse Day."
  • 1974 January - The International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12 would be "International Nurse Day."
  • 1974 February - A week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, and President Nixon issued a proclamation.
  • 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.

(From the American Nursing Association website -

Why are more women in nursing

Why are women seen in nursing more than men? It's a nurturing role. Heredity and learning from their mothers give women a head start. Women appear as caring people anyone can depend on.

As men enter the nursing workforce, we find them as capable and caring as women in the role. They too must have an ability to think on their feet and have patience with their patients.


I have my own theory about why more women than men go into nursing. It's hard work! My grandparents remind me of the old saying, "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done."

My grandfather worked a full-time job and ran a small family farm. He was an intelligent and hard-working man. He would get up early every day and feed the chickens and milk the cows. After he came home from work, he'd feed the cows and gather eggs and complete any farm or household tasks before bed.

My grandmother would get up before him, make coffee and his lunch. While he went to feed she would make his breakfast and put his lunch and a full thermos of coffee in his lunchbox. Sending him off to work, she'd then get the rest of the family ready off and go to work herself. Returning home after work, she'd do the wash, dishes, and start dinner and have it on the table for him when he got home. After dinner she'd clean up and put everything away while he took a bath and got ready for bed.

They each had their roles in the home, which were as different as their occupations. Together they accomplished a lot and raised a good family of hardworking children.

Translating to healthcare

Such roles in a traditional home can equate to life in healthcare. Nurses do a lot of heavy lifting in hospitals and elsewhere in the healthcare world. They don't do it all, but a lot of what they do supports everyone else.
Nurses provide care, follow doctors orders, decipher those written orders. Written physician's orders are often more difficult to discern than ancient hieroglyphics. Nurse make their own notes and coordinate care with other members of the team, then they start over.

Nursing roles vary these days. They may serve as Chief Nursing Officer, Charge Nurse, Floor Nurse, Unit Nurse, and other roles. Many of the nurses in healthcare must not only be able to function in medical situations, they must be efficient in administrative roles. Nurses can understand the business of healthcare in ways other professionals can't. It's kind of like a mom running the household. You may remember the old adage "do you want to speak to the person in charge or the one who runs everything?"

Modern nursing

There have been many changes in nursing over the last few decades. Nurses have transitioned from certificate programs to Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). The evolution of nursing has added skills and expertise for being a Registered Nurse (RN). The program evolved to a degree, the Associate of Science in Nursing. The next logical step came with more education for those would serve in administrative roles - the BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. We now have masters degrees and doctoral degrees in nursing. Would that be a doctor nurse? No.

You may know these professional nurses with advanced degrees as Nurse Practioners. They function like a doctor in medical practice, under the supervision of a physician. This would be akin to Physicians Assistants - but not Physician Extenders. The physician extender is a title used in some dialysis and other allied health roles. There is a huge difference with much less eduction.


Nurses are often out of the limelight, and most do not seek it. They are often overworked and understaffed. Their plight has seen more attention with COVID-19 pandemic, but it goes way beyond this.

The physical and emotional strain nurses deal with on a regular basis is more than most will take. It takes a special person. A person who is selfless, caring, and compassionate. They aren't in it for the glamor or fame - not even flight nurses on aeromedical helicopters. Nurses do their job for their own satisfaction. I wish would could say this of all professions.

If you see a nurse, this National Nurses Week, let them know of your appreciation. They could all use a pat on the back once in a while. A word of thanks goes a long, long, way.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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