"Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring"

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Richardson
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Each year nurses around the world are recognized for their effort in keeping the world healthy during National Nurses Week, May 6-12.

National Nurses Week is an internationally celebrated event that was first observed in 1954, marking the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea, a peninsula south of the Ukraine.

On October 14, 1854, Nightingale offered her services to the War Office but her friend Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of War, already had written to her. Herbert suggested that Nightingale go to Crimea due to the war which began in March of that year.

Nightingale decided to accept the request and left for Crimea on the 21st of October with thirty-eight nurses. Nightingale's official title was Superintendent of the Female Nurses in the Hospitals in the East, in short 'The Lady in Chief.'

Upon arrival Nightingale and her team realized the harsh conditions and low sanitation levels of the hospital barracks at Scutari. In their notes they said that there was no soap, towels or clothes for the patients. There was no milk or water and the bread and butter were not safe to eat.

Looking past the behaviors of the orderlies, the women quickly established a kitchen and laundry facility. They also took on the responsibility of looking after the soldiers' wives and children, providing them their daily necessities.

Nightingale worked for 20 hours a day alongside her nurses. She became the only female allowed to be in the wards after 8 p.m., giving her the title 'Lady of the Lamp.'

Nightingale made the poor conditions of the facility known which encouraged the War Office to order the sanitary commission at Scutari to complete sanitary reforms immediately. After this order the death rate went from 42 to 2 percent.

In 1982, the American Nurses Association formally set May 6th as "National Nurses Day." A month later, President Ronald Regan officially signed "National Recognition Day for Nurses" into effect. In 1990, the ANA expanded the celebration and permanently established "National Nurses Week," beginning each year on May 6th and ending May 12th, Nightingale's birthday.

The ANA week theme for 2012 is "Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring."