Holiday or Holiweek?
National Nurses Day isn't a day; it's a weeklong observance of the hard work done by a group of committed, restless people. Nurses can be found nearly anywhere most of us avoid; hospitals, shelters, clinics, school offices, and the emergency room. Each of these individuals is willing to care for you without even knowing who you are, and that's something special. Simply put, nurses are what makes National Nurses Day worth celebrating for a whole week.
Out of the Hospital, Onto the Calendar
A year later, some kindly folks celebrated a National Nurse Week from October 11 - 16. The date was chosen to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea. Florence Nightingale is commonly recognized as the founder of modern nursing, so diagnosing this date for a nurses' holiday was a no-brainer.
In 1972, (yeah, it took that long for advancement) a resolution was passed for President Nixon to proclaim a "National Registered Nurses Day." But this was going on at the same time as his historic visit to China, and the nurses fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, everyone looked on in disbelief - we just wanted to agree on day for everyone to say "thank you" to our nurses and maybe give a spa gift basket. This shouldn't be so hard!
By '74, the International Council of Nurses went ahead and made a proclamation for "International Nurses Day" and one-upped the original Florence Nightingale-honoring date of October by making Nightingale's birthday the new Nurses Day. Later that same year, President Nixon issued a proclamation for a single National Nurse Week. We were almost there.
Revenge of the Nurse
Eight years passed with nurses receiving thanks and gift baskets on random days without an official holiday. "Just because" gift baskets are lovely, but a basket that comes with a salutation of "Happy Nurses Day" was what America was really striving toward. Multiple states like New Jersey and New Mexico took a crack at getting a Nurse Day started, but lacked the charisma and authority to command the right of attention. So, in 1982, with star power and executive power in hand, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6th to be "National Recognition Day for Nurses."
In 1990, the American Nurses Association - remembering how sweet it was to have a whole week for nurses - expanded Reagan's holiday to May 6 - 12. After being on call for nearly 50 years, America finally had the National Nurses Week we have today.