Oklahoma City University Online Nursing Blog
Why we celebrate National Nurses Week

Why we celebrate National Nurses Week

Four nurses talking while walking through a sunny hallway

“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body…” - Florence Nightingale

As the nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale expressed, nursing isn’t simply a job, it’s an all-encompassing profession into which nurses commit their intelligence, compassion and care. To recognize their integral role in American communities, nurses are celebrated from May 6 to May 12th every year. If you’ve worked as a nurse or in any healthcare setting in the past couple of decades, you’ve likely heard of Nurses Week. Hospitals and health systems across the country throw parties, do giveaways, and most importantly, provide platforms for nurse voices to be heard and give all levels of nurses an opportunity to share their experiences in the field

The History of National Nurses Week

Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953, is considered to be the first advocate for a national recognition of nurses, although her proposal for a “Nurse Day” wasn’t immediately implemented. The following year, 1954, National Nurse Week was observed in October to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s work during the Crimean War1 where she led a nursing corps to care for soldiers and established many sanitization principles that are at the foundation of modern medicine.2

While many efforts were made to consistently recognize the importance of nurses with several different dates and weeks observed over the years, it wasn’t until 1982 that President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to take place on May 6. In 1990 the American Nurses Association (ANA) took the lead in the celebration and turned it into a week of events known as “National Nurses Week,” which is how it continues to be recognized today. Since then a few additional specific appreciations have been added to the festivities including National RN Recognition Day on May 6, and National Student Nurses Day on May 8. Although the week of awareness was moved from October to May, Florence Nightingale is still recognized with the week commencing on her birthday, May 12.

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National Nurses Week 2022 Theme

In recent years the ANA has assigned themes to Nurses Week. This year’s theme is “Nurses Make a Difference,” a straightforward topic that gets right at the meaning behind Nurses Week: to honor the varying roles of nurses and their positive impact on our lives. From acting as trusted caregivers directly to patients, to influencing and helping to create fair and substantial health policy, nurses’ impact can be felt across all sectors.

Nursing is currently facing a daunting issue, however, in lacking enough nurses to care for an aging population. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 175,900 job openings for nurses each year through the next decade3, an estimate that includes typical job growth and turnover along with nurse retirements and workforce exits. Those latter individuals (the median age of a registered nurse is 52 years old) will likely become part of the population that needs care as the enormous Baby Boomer generation ages and moves into care facilities. This nursing shortage isn’t all bad news though as it will open up tremendous opportunities for those looking to join or advance in the field.

For National Nurses Week 2022 we want to arm you with some fun, concrete facts to demonstrate the importance and intensity of the field of nursing.

  • Nursing is the nation's largest healthcare profession, with more than 4 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide.4
  • Nurses are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation's long-term care.5
  • Nurses walk 4 to 5 miles in a 12-hour day, versus the typical American adult who walks only 2.5 to 3 miles over an 18-hour day.6
  • Nursing students comprise more than half of all health professions students.5
  • The number of male nurses has tripled over the past 50 years.7
  • Nurses have been named the most honest and ethical professionals in Gallup polls for 20 years, winning 81% of the vote in 2021.8

How you can participate in National Nurses Week 2022

Events will take place virtually and in-person across the country. Check in with your workplace to see if any events are happening where you work. You can also participate independently by sharing your stories or reading those of others by using the hashtag #NursesWeek on social media and following nursing social accounts. You can also check the official ANA Nurses Month website to see what activities the industry organization has in store.

The ANA segments its Nurses Month into four weeks and will have related workshops and activities9:

  • Week 1: Self-Care, May 1-7
  • Week 2: Recognition, May 8-14
  • Week 3: Professional Development, May 15-21
  • Week 4: Community Engagement, May 22-31

In your week spent focusing on the theme of “professional development,” consider taking a look at continuing education options including leveling up your practice and career with the next level of nursing degree. Every nurse plays an important role in patient care no matter what level of education they have. However, the adage “learn more to earn more” remains true for the field of nursing. Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates in the United States make on average about $80,000 annually10, Master of Science in Nursing degree-holders earn $97,000 on average nationally11, while RNs have a national average salary of only $64,08312. Plus, there are countless other benefits to adding to your nursing education with a degree. More advanced nursing jobs tend to be on traditional 8-hour schedules, sometimes even 9-to-5 schedules rather than 12-hour shifts. You also can start to work more specialized roles that are aligned with your interests.

Enjoy National Nurses Week! If you’re interested in pushing your career further, check out Oklahoma City University’s 100% asynchronous RN-BSN Online and MSN Online programs. With no admissions prerequisites, no waitlist, and no traditional clinical hours, it’s one of the easiest ways to increase your impact on the field.

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