National Nurses Day is on Monday, May 6, and anchors National Nurses Week. Each year these events provide us with the opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to the women and men who do so much to nurture and shape the care we provide our patients.

We are approaching the bicentennial of Florence Nightingale, regarded as the founder of modern nursing, who was born on May 12, 1820. Her personal commitment to trained and skilled nurses was matched by an abiding passion for improving the hospital settings in which nurses work. Her skills and ideas were put to the test in the 1850s in the Crimean War, where she took on the challenge of transforming grimy and poorly equipped Army field hospitals into environments for healing, not dying.

Her success in the reduction of death rates from typhoid and cholera among the wounded soldiers who were her patients set standards that began to be copied and followed in other hospitals. Throughout the world she became known as “The Lady with the Lamp” because of her custom of making rounds in the wards at night. By some reports she was also known among military leaders as “The Lady with the Hammer” because of her willingness on occasion to break locks off of doors or cupboards to gain necessary supplies for those in her care.

While a debilitating illness she first experienced in Crimea left her bedridden for most of her life, she continued to work writing books and reports right up to her death at age 90 in 1910. With unflinching attention to the factors that impacted how effectively patients were being treated, she laid the foundation for both modern nursing and professionalized nursing training.

About her passion and commitment she wrote, “Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.”  She is a fitting example and icon for the commitment, skill, passion, and courage that nurses bring to their work each and every day.

If you are a nurse—thank you! (And if you are not a nurse—go find one and say thank you on behalf of all of us!)  You are a vital part of our work and ministry, and you make a difference in the lives of everyone that we serve.

We wouldn’t be who we are without you. On May 6, and all through Nurses Week, we honor your defining role in healthcare and express our gratitude and appreciation for what you do so faithfully every day.