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Celebrating National Nurses Week

ELKINS — The importance of nurses has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic, and National Nurses Week begins today, giving us an opportunity to show our gratitude to these true heroes.

Today is National Nurses Day, a day set aside to thank nurses and other healthcare workers for the hard work they do every day keeping patients healthy. National Nurses Week continues through May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

Lawmakers and public health officials have repeatedly praised medical workers as heroes as they struggle to treat the infected during the pandemic.

“Nurses are under immense pressure right now,” said Kendra McMillan, a senior policy adviser for the American Nurses Association. “We’ve heard from nurses on the front lines who say they’ve never experienced the level of burnout we’re seeing right now.”

As the coronavirus pandemic surged across the nation and infections and hospitalizations rose, medical administrators scrambled to find enough nursing help — especially in rural areas and at small hospitals.

Nurses were trained to provide care in fields in which they had limited experience. Hospitals scaled back services to ensure that they had enough staff to handle critically ill patients. And some health systems turned to short-term travel nurses to help fill the gaps.

In recognition of the challenges nurses are facing, the World Health Organization and global colleagues extended the Year of the Nurse and Midwife into 2021 because of the impact of the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, we need to support and recognize nurses for their steadfast commitment to meeting the needs of patients and their communities every day,” an American Nurses Association press release states. “We encourage you to promote nurses’ health and well-being and honor them in any way you can.”

In 1954, National Nurse Week was observed from Oct. 11 – 16. The year of the observance marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea.

In 1974, a week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, and President Richard M. Nixon issued a proclamation.

In 1978, New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as “Nurses Day.”

In 1982, the American Nurses Association 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.”

Also in 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6, 1982.

In 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.

In 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.

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