FORT POLK — In recognition of more than 200 military and civilian nurses, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital celebrates National Nurses Week May 6 through Saturday.

A caring touch, gentle hand and hourly rounds to help ensure patient safety is part of the daily routine of BJACH’s health-care team. The national observance increases awareness of the nursing profession and celebrates nurses’ contributions to society as well as their commitment to health, wellness, safety and the Fort Polk community.

BJACH’s annual week-long celebration kicked off with a cake cutting and blessing of the hands ceremony May 7 at Entrance B. Nurses enjoyed a special traveling ice cream cart May 8 that delivered treats for their workplaces throughout the facility. May 9 was dubbed Waffle Wednesday, breakfast to the nurses as they switched shifts. Col. Marla J. Ferguson, hospital commander, is scheduled to present closing remarks at a ceremony today at 3 p.m. In recognition of the special service that nurses provide, an awards ceremony will be incorporated into the closing ceremony.

1st Lt. Laura McClure, coordinator of this year’s celebration, said, “It’s been a wonderful chance working with nurses from other departments to make this week a reality for our staff, to give back to those that give so much.”

Kimberly Runyon, a licensed practical nurse in the BJACH Patient Centered Medical Home, said nurses have an opportunity to help heal the heart, mind and body of their patients.

“Patients may forget our names but they will never forget how we made them feel,” she said.

Throughout the week, BJACH nurses wore T-shirts designed for the 2018 Nurses Week. Each nurse received a commemorative token provided by the Nurses’ Week committee along with thank you cards and notes provided by local schools.

According to Lt. Col. Kimberly M. Geslak, chief nursing officer, despite being recognized for their efforts during Nurses Week, the top priority for nurses at BJACH remains safe, quality, patient-centered care.

The first National Nurse Week was observed in 1954 in commemoration of Florence Nightingale's mission to the Crimean War in 1854 and later formalized through Presidential proclamation. Today, the celebration is held every year from May 6-12; Florence Nightingale's birthday is May 12, 1820.

Nightingale is praised as one of the founders of modern nursing. During the Crimean War, her commitment to duty was demonstrated by her lamp-lit midnight rounds, ensuring essential care to Soldiers. As a result, she is known as the “Lady with the Lamp.” Her tireless campaign to improve the health and medical care of that time has become the foundation for today’s exemplary hospital and nursing standards; the interventions are still practiced today.

“Florence led the way for battlefield nursing forward deployed with the troops during the Crimean War, saving hundreds of soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Heather Owens, a BJACH certified registered nurse anesthetist and former Forward Surgical Team commander.

National Nurses Week promotes the profession of nursing and educates the community about the vital role nurses perform in the health-care system. This year during Nurses’ Week, BJACH hosted a health and wellness fair, along with educational offerings that focused on mind, body and spirt. BJACH recognizes the outstanding contribution nurses provide every day.