National Nurses Week kicks off May 6 to recognize importance, impact of profession

Wisconsin Nurses Honor Guard pays tribute to deceased nurses with funeral ceremonies


By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor

UNITED STATES – Now as much as ever, nurses play a crucial role in the lives of Americans.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout the United States and the world, nurses and medical professionals are on the front lines, treating patients and working to keep people healthy and safe. For decades, the dedication of nurses has been recognized during National Nurses Week.

History of National Nurses Week

National Nurses Week kicks off with National Nurses Day on May 6 and concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who laid the foundations for modern nursing after serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War in the mid-1850s.

The week was first observed in the United States in Oct. 1954 to mark the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s pioneering work in Crimea.

“In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower asking him to proclaim a ‘Nurse Day’ in October of the following year to coincide with the anniversary,” says “Although the President didn’t act, the celebration was observed thanks to a bill sponsored by Representative Frances P. Bolton, and the following year a new bill was introduced to Congress lobbying for official recognition of the celebration.”

President Richard Nixon proclaimed a National Nurses Week 20 years later in 1974, and it has since been celebrated each May. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared May 6 National Nurses Day.

Wisconsin Nurses Honor Guard

The Wisconsin Nurses Honor Guard was founded in 2016 after Jamie Bohacek learned about how nurses in other states were honored at their funerals and wanted to do the same for nurses in Wisconsin.

Since the inception of the Honor Guard, volunteers have been performing ceremonies at the funerals of Wisconsin nurses, honoring them for their dedication and contributions to the occupation.

“We provide a final tribute, free of charge, to any licensed nurse, active or retired, who resided in Wisconsin,” Bohacek, a Registered Nurse and President of the Honor Guard, said on “Nurses make many sacrifices during their lifetime and this is a way to say ‘thank you’ and show their families how much we appreciate them.”

The Honor Guard, which became an official nonprofit last year, currently has over 225 active members throughout the state and has performed ceremonies at over 100 funerals.

Bohacek said the Honor Guard plans to work with funeral directors and families to pay tribute to nurses who have passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursing Facts

  • Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 84.5% are employed in nursing.
  • The federal government projects that more than 200,000 new registered nurse positions will be created each year from 2016-2026.
  • Registered Nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce as a whole and are among the highest paying large occupations. Nearly 58% of RNs worked in general medical and surgical hospitals, where RN salaries averaged $70,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Nurses comprise the largest component of the healthcare workforce, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.
  • Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the RN workforce will occur for a number of reasons, including an increased emphasis on preventive care; growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity; and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as they live longer and more active lives.
  • Most healthcare services involve some form of care by nurses. Registered nurses are in high demand in both acute care and community settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, minute clinics, outpatient surgicenters, nursing school-operated clinics, insurance and managed care companies, schools, mental health agencies, hospices, the military, industry, nursing education, and healthcare research.
  • Though often working collaboratively, nursing does not “assist” medicine or other fields. Nursing operates independent of, not auxiliary to, medicine and other disciplines. Nurses’ roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems.
  • With more than three times as many RNs in the United States as physicians, nursing delivers an extended array of healthcare services, including primary and preventive care by nurse practitioners with specialized education in such areas as pediatrics, family health, women’s health, and gerontological care. Nursing’s scope also includes services by certified nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists, as well as care in cardiac, oncology, neonatal, neurological, and obstetric/gynecological nursing and other advanced clinical specialties.
  • Most registered nurses today enter practice with a baccalaureate degree offered by a four-year college or university or an associate degree offered by a community college.
  • Employers are expressing a strong preference for new nurses with baccalaureate preparation. Findings from AACN latest survey on the Employment of New Nurse Graduates show that 46% of employers require new hires to have a bachelor’s degree while 88% strongly prefer baccalaureate-prepared nurses.
  • In 2018, 17.1% of the nation’s registered nurses held a master’s degree and 1.9% a doctoral degree as their highest educational preparation. The current demand for master’s- and doctorally-prepared nurses for advanced practice, clinical specialties, teaching, and research roles far outstrips the supply.

Courtesy of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing

A Timeline of Nursing

  • 1751 – The first hospital was founded in Philadelphia, Penn.
  • 1775 to 1783 – Nurses were recruited to care for the wounded under the command of George Washington.
  • 1783 – James Derham used his earnings from nursing to buy his freedom from slavery.
  • 1841 – Dorothea Dix advocated for the mentally ill and established mental institutions.
  • 1853 to 1856 – Florence Nightingale served in the Crimean War and set up a holistic system of nursing.
  • 1859 – Notes On Nursing  by Florence Nightingale was published. It was one of the first nursing manuals ever written.
  • 1860 – The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing was opened in London.
  • 1861 – Nurses began to wear uniforms.
  • 1861 to 1865 – During the Civil War, over 2,000 nurses cared for injured and ill soldiers.
  • 1865 – Sojourner Truth cared for injured African-American soldiers in Washington, D.C. Her sanitation practices reduced infections, and she taught other nurses her principles.
  • 1873 – Linda Richards, the first American trained nurse, graduated from the New England Hospital for Women and Children School of Nursing.
  • 1879 – Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first African-American trained nurse, graduated from the New England Hospital School of Nursing.
  • 1881 – Clara Barton established the American Red Cross.
  • 1893 – Lillian Wald founded the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
  • 1900 – The first issue of the American Journal of Nursing  was published.
  • 1901 – New Zealand began requiring registration for nurses.
  • 1902 – Ellen Dougherty from New Zealand became the first registered nurse in the world.
  • 1902 – Lina Rogers Struthers was hired as the first public school nurse.
  • 1908 – Congress established the United States Naval Nursing Corps.
  • 1908 – The National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses was established. It merged with the American Nurses Association in 1951.
  • 1914 to 1918 – Nurses from the U.S. Navy Nursing Corps and the American Red Cross served in World War I.
  • 1917 – Margaret Sanger established the National Birth Control League that later became Planned Parenthood.
  • 1925 – The Frontier Nursing Service was started by Mary Breckinridge.
  • 1939 to 1945 – Over 59,000 American nurses served in World War II.
  • 1950 – The first intensive care units were established and created the specialty of critical care nursing.
  • 1956 – Columbia University School of Nursing offered the first master’s program for nurses.
  • 1959 to 1975 – Over 5,000 nurses served during the war.
  • 1965 – The University of Colorado established the first nurse practitioner program.
  • 1967 – Dame Cicely Saunders started the first hospice in London and provided the foundation for care of the terminally ill.
  • 1972 – Eddie Bernice Johnson was the first registered nurse elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • 1979 – Case Western Reserve University started the first doctoral program for nurses.
  • 1990 – Nursing uniforms become more casual. Nurses in hospital settings began to wear “scrubs”.
  • 2009 – The Carnegie Foundation released the results of Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation  , a study of nursing education.
  • 2010 – The Institute for the Future of Nursing released recommendations for improved health care.

Courtesy of Nursing Theory

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