Celebrating and Remembering Nurses

Appeared in: Nurse Together

By: Karen Anne Wolf

Health Care NursesCelebrating nursing is a young tradition.  The celebration of Nurses Week coincides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, May 12, 1820. * While nurses have provided care for centuries, the formal development of nursing education and nursing practice by leaders such as Florence Nightingale, and others such as Mary Seacole, captured the attention of the public and led to the growth of the nursing profession.  The celebration of nursing, now often for a full week, is a commemoration of our achievement around the world; nurses work daily to promote the health of their communities, guide the birthing and care of infants, and care for the sick and dying.  Like Nightingale and many nurses before her, nurses have persevered in times of adversities such as war, famine, economic hardship and recurrent shortages to meet the needs of the public for health. 

Nurses are translators of the medical care system and serve as the "pillars of quality and safety" in our health care systems.  They are the advocates for underserved populations, patients and their families.  For those of us who have had ready access to formal nursing education and provide care in secure and well-supplied health care systems, it is critical that we recognize our privileged positions.  With privilege comes a responsibility to not only celebrate, but to also remember and advocate for the worldwide advancement of nursing and the health of humanity.  While nurses are a diverse group, they share this commitment.  Respecting the rights of others, our nursing and health care colleagues and most importantly, our patients, is an essential ingredient for securing health.  The disparities in health, nursing education and opportunities for practice reflect our "dis-ease" within our humanity.

We walk on the paths made by the generations of nurses who sacrificed and toiled before us.  Celebrating our history and accomplishments does not pave the road for others.

  • Remember that while many nurses are trusted and privileged, many of our fellow nurses struggle around the world for education, recognition, and the most basic access to health care system resources. 
  • Remember that many of nursing colleagues, like Nightingale and others, are still caught in the cross fires of war or civil disturbances, and the economic, social and environmental threat to health that these bring.
  • Remember that the power of Nursing comes from our unity and diversity, our actions for one and our advocacy for many. 


This year, as we celebrate, take time to reflect on and join in the unity of nursing.  Become an advocate for our environment, the global commitment for access to education, health and a security of our environment.  Celebrate locally and advocate globally!

Go to the International Council of Nursing (ICN) and download their kit to "celebrate International Nursing Day."  The goal of the ICN is to represent nursing worldwide, advancing the profession and influencing health policy.

Take a small step for the environment too and learn about Health Care Without Harm.  This is a global coalition of 473 organizations in more than 50 countries working to protect health by reducing pollution in the health care sect.

Become a Global Nursing Advocate: Sign the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health Pledge at www.nightingaledeclaration.net   

(www.nightingaledeclaration.net/declaration/healthy/ )

This pledge calls for:  


  1. Global nursing commitment to create healthy communities around the world through nursing practices that reflect the principles and practices of Florence Nightingale.

  2. Worldwide commitment - from all 192 UN member states - to celebrate the International Year of the Nurse throughout 2010 in their respective countries and regions, as well as globally.

  3. With the passage of a UN Resolution to adopt 2011-2020 as the UN Decade for a Healthy world, a global plan is in place - with specific national and regional action steps - to implement a series of projects targeted toward creating a healthy world. This plan will be developed by nurses from around the world and in collaboration with others committed to these goals.


Finally, a gift from the West Coast of the United States is the celebration of Nursing and Florence Nightingale on COUNTRY JOE MCDONALD'S TRIBUTE TO FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE & NURSING  found at www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/

McDonald, an American Folk singer, premiered a musical and spoken word program on March 06 2009 in advance of the 100th anniversary of the death of Nightingale. 

About the Author:  Karen Anne Wolf PhD, RN, ANP-BC, FNA is Associate Professor at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA.  She was formerly Associate Director of the Nursing Program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and an adult  nurse practitioner in the Cambridge Health Alliance Senior Health Center.  A writer and editor of a variety of article and books on nursing trends, politics, practices and history including, "A History of Nursing Ideas" and the "The Selected Work of JoAnn Ashley".  She enjoys writing for lay audience and urges her nursing colleagues to share their stories.

Source: http://www.nursetogether.com/tabid/102/itemid/1205/Celebrating-and-Remembering-Nurses.aspx

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