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Honoring the Practice of Nursing is the Focus of National Nurses Week

Image of Nurses Week graphic. Nurses make a difference—every day, anytime, anywhere, always—is the message from the Defense Health Agency as National Nurses Week is celebrated, May 6-12, 2024.

Nurses make a difference—every day, anytime, anywhere, always—is the message from the Defense Health Agency as National Nurses Week is celebrated, May 6-12, 2024. Around the Military Health System, nurses provide essential, person-centered care that keeps our military communities healthy. Military and civilian nurses make a difference through their essential contributions to the DHA mission of improving health and building readiness.

“Our military and civilian nurses make a difference in the lives of those entrusted to our care, our nation’s heroes and their families,” said Dr. Kristen Atterbury, retired U.S. Navy Nurse Corps captain and newly named chief nursing officer at DHA. “Nurses in the MHS serve in many settings, and in many roles in support of our beneficiaries. Our nurses are highly educated, highly trained, and experts in many specialties, serving in military hospitals and clinics, and with operational units, on land, at sea, and in the air. Our nurses are clinicians, educators, scientists, and innovators. They are leading hospitals and clinics and serving in every role in between. Today and every day, we are proud of the care, compassion, and dedication of all our nurses.

Nursing expertise and resiliency are the backbone of the health care provided to beneficiaries across the globe. The Military Health System offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain invaluable experience in diverse practice settings, develop leadership skills, and make a difference in the lives of those who defend our nation, and their families.

DHA established the Chief Nursing Officer program office to optimize nursing practice across the Military Health System. A joint professional practice model was adopted that reflects a total nursing force among an integrated health care team and nursing leadership collaboration among the services.

National Nurses Week has been a recognized event since 1954, typically coinciding with Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12, 1820. Nightingale is credited as the founder of modern nursing, revolutionizing patient care through her emphasis on sanitation, and establishing the first secular nursing school.

The history of nursing in the U.S. military dates to the Revolutionary War. Military nurses often worked for little to no pay under deplorable conditions, without rank or recognition. And nurses from the 18th and 19th century did more than save lives on the battlefield or in the hospital or in their patients’ homes: they paved the way for future generations of nurse professionals by changing the course of American medical history.

Visit this timeline to learn more about nurses and nursing in the military.

Nursing career opportunities are available across the entire MHS in a wide range of specialties and practice settings. Learn more about a career in nursing in the MHS by visiting and the employment page on

DHA will celebrate the remarkable contributions of nurses at an event at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia on May 10, 2024. DHA nursing leaders will be joined by service nursing leadership from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force. Dr. Debbie Hatmaker, the chief nursing officer of the American Nurses Association, will provide a keynote address.

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Last Updated: May 06, 2024
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