A Colorful & Patriotic Celebration of American Nursing
We all know about Flo; the English nurse considered the founder of modern nursing. In fact, National Nurses Week ends May 12, the anniversary of her birth. In the United States, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first American woman to graduate from medical school and in 1861 founded a medical school for women. Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross could arguably be considered the patron saint of the American Nursing profession. In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare asked President Eisenhower to declare a national nursing celebration for the following year with absolutely no success. It was not until 1974 that nurses received this recognition. President Nixon issued a proclamation establishing National Nurses Week. In 1982 the American Nursing Association designated May 6 as National Nurses Day. May 8 is National Student Nurses and School Nurses Day and May 12 is International Nurses Day.
The colors of the American Flag, the red, white, and blue have symbolism attached to them that can also apply to our American Nursing Profession. The color Red in the flag officially represents Hardiness and Valor. It has been said by others that Red represents the blood spilled by our patriots and those who currently fight to preserve and protect this country. The blood, sweat and tears nurses pour into their profession surely embody this as well. The White of the flag represent Purity and Innocence. This sounds like a commentary being made by Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress in 1777. He interpreted the white to represent the stand the infant republic was making against the tyranny of England in his official description of the colors. The White heart is considered the universal symbol of nursing, characterized by the caring, knowledge and humanity embodied in the spirit of nursing as well as the global unifying nursing symbol. The Blue of the flag represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice. Social Justice is one of the five core values of professional nursing. The blue six-pointed Star of Life is outlined with a white border and has become the symbol for emergency medical services worldwide.
Everyone is familiar with the color-coded announcements made in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Code Red is the common term for fire and/or smoke and Code White means an evacuation order has been given. Code Blue is most recognized as the universal code for a medical emergency in the facility, be it cardiac or respiratory arrest, stroke symptoms or an alarming drop in blood pressure. In addition to these auditory codes, there are colors associated with hospitals, healthcare facilities and medical personnel. Color plays an important psychological and physiological role in life and there are reasons the antiseptic white of hospitals of the past are rare now, and soft, muted colors are used instead. One of the most visible and immediate color schemes seen in hospitals are the color of scrubs worn by nurses. The colors of a nurse’s scrubs are often used to denote various departments within the facility, pink scrubs in Labor, Delivery and Maternity are just one example.
Red scrubs are not commonly seen in healthcare facilities for a number of reasons. Red being the color of blood, is known to elevate heart rates. In nature red often signals poison or danger and may trigger anxiety, discomfort, or mistrust. This can influence how a patient may respond to a nurse. Softer shades like pink or burgundy, which lack the intensity of Red tend not to evoke such strong reactions. It is believed that these muted tones are actually more soothing and can be appropriate in Pediatrics (or Veterinary clinics). White scrubs emphasize cleanliness and traditionally been the color most associated with Lab Coats. Even today, the mental image of a nurse is often a starched white uniform, cap, shoes, and stockings. In addition to being nearly impossible to keep clean, white scrubs can cause eye strain and visual fatigue. This is of particular importance in a surgical setting where staring for an extended period at white or red have been shown to desensitize the eyes to subtle nuances within the body. Different color scrubs allow the eyes a chance to rest and reset. Green is the opposite of red and since the 1970’s “surgical green” has been the predominate color associated with surgical staff. Blue scrubs, known as “Caribbean Blue,” are more the norm today for nurses throughout hospitals and healthcare. Blue has many of the same characteristics as white without the downside of eye strain and the cleanliness/laundry factor. Blue denotes depth, stability, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, and intelligence. Soothing, relaxing, and calming blue can lower blood pressure and ease anxiety. This trust factor is intrinsic to the nursing profession. It is not a coincidence that NHS Solutions chose blue and green for its logo colors!
On April 3, 2020, a real estate group in partnership with property owners of about 12 downtown skyscrapers joined to light up the Detroit, MI skyline with patriotic red, white and blue lights to honor healthcare workers, nurses, doctors and other first responders. This display will stay lit until the ‘Stay at Home’ order is lifted. Elsewhere across the country, individuals and communities are coming together honoring our nations nurses with blue ribbons, balloons, and outside lights in a show of appreciation. A truly awesome, American tribute.
Our National Nurses Week has been adopted throughout the world. The United Kingdom has a ceremony in Westminster Abbey highlighted by a symbolic passing of the lamp of knowledge. In China, the nurses all reaffirm the Florence Nightingale Pledge and Australia honors it’s Nurse of the Year. President Reagan put his own unique spin on the symbolism of the American Flag; “the colors of the flag signify the qualities of the human spirit we Americans cherish; Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; White for pure intentions and high ideals and blue for vigilance and justice.”
In this particular time and in this particular year, NHS Solutions believes celebrating and honoring our American Nurses with patriotic and inspiring symbolism is beyond appropriate. We applaud and thank all our medical staff, first responders and front line workers across the spectrum of patient care. There have been truly inspirational stories displaying all the aspects of the symbolism depicted in our flag.
Contact us to discuss how you might be able to join a hospital team that needs your leadership and skills. We have a fast track system in place that has enabled us to onboard an interim nurse leaders in a week and we are hiring. Visit nhss.com/jobs or contact our recruiting team. If your hospital has an urgent leadership gap, we are here and ready to assist.