National Nurses Week: May 6th – 12th

May 6th was National Nurses Day. This weeklong celebration of our healthcare heroes ends each year on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. But the week of recognition honors the contributions of nurses everywhere.
Here are just a few of history’s most influential nurses.

  • Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross, turning the Swiss concept of helping wounded soldiers into a resource to offer “impartial medical and material aid,” without regard to race, gender, or religion, to those in the throes of a natural disaster.1
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney was America’s first African American RN. While she worked as a laundry assistant in the New England Hospital for Women and Children, she was also an unofficial nursing aid. In 1879, she was admitted to nursing school, paving the way for other African American nurses. In 1976, she was inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame.
  • Dorothea Dix taught women in jail, where she witnessed appalling treatment of those who were mentally disabled. She opened the first mental asylum in the U.S. and raised the status of mental health nursing.
  • Lillian Wald cofounded the NAACP. Like so many nurses, the illness of a loved one, her sister, was the impetus for her becoming a nurse. She was an activist for peace and other humanitarian causes and received much recognition for her work.
  • Julita Villaruel Sotejo studied both nursing and law in the Philippines and went on to attend Yale University School of Nursing on a scholarship. This advocate for racial injustice and representation in education held a master’s degree in nursing and earned her law doctorate at age 85.
  • Joe Hogan couldn’t find a nursing program near him that accepted men, so he applied to the Mississippi University for Women. When he was denied entry on the basis of sex, he filed a case under the Equal Protection Clause, and the courts ruled in his favor.
  • Hazel W. Johnson-Brown was the earned the rank of Army Nurse Corps chief—and was the first African American person to do so.
  • In 1863, poet Walt Whitman was so moved by the suffering of men in battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, that he volunteered as a nurse. Though he had planned to work just a few days, he stayed for the whole war.
  • Susie King Taylor was a child of enslaved people freed to be with her grandmother in Savannah. There, she learned to read and write. During the Civil War, she worked as a laundry assistant and taught freed African Americans. She became a nurse to care for African American soldiers during the war and published Reminiscences about her experience.
  • Linda Richards became interested in nursing after her parents died of TB. She was the first female trained nurse in the U.S. and is known for our current nursing record-keeping system.

To learn about more nurses, please see 10 Most Influential Nurses in History, 10 Innovative and Influential Nurse Leaders, and 16 AAPI Nurses to Know for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

This year’s theme is a mouthful, but #IND2022 asks us to help our nurses by respecting them and investing in nursing. These acts will make it easier for us to meet individual and community needs with high-quality, resilient healthcare systems.

We want to take this time to pay tribute to our nurses, the backbone of AbsoluteCare. Thank you for going #beyondmedicine to help our members every day.