In 1948, when I graduated from high school, I decided to become a nurse. At that time, registered nurse was the only kind of nurse that I knew about.

My mother was delighted. This was what she had wanted to become, but her father had told her "nice girls did not become nurses" and would not approve. That was back in 1919.

Nursing is a noble profession, but at one time it caused concern to parents if a daughter expressed desire to become a nurse. After World War II, thinking changed about the character of nursing as a profession.

Today, nursing is held in much higher esteem, and is vital for good health care in the world. It has been no simple task, however, to gain the recognition this profession so richly deserves. Today completes a week honoring registered nurses.

The path to 2010 has been an interesting one for this profession with many changes in public perception throughout the years. In 1953, a proposal was sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to proclaim a "Nurse Day" in October of the following year, but the proclamation was never made. However, the following year, National Nurses Week was observed from Oct. 11 to 16, the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to the Crimean War.

Again in 1972, a resolution was presented by the House of Representatives for the president to proclaim National Registered Nurse Day. It did not occur. But in February 1974, a week was designated by the White House as "National Nurse Week" by President Richard Nixon.

After numerous attempts, the U.S. Congress in 1982 designated May 6 to be National Recognition Day for Nurses. The proposal was signed by President Ronald Reagan, making May 6 the official recognition day.

It was expanded in 1990 by the American Nurses Association Board of Directors to a week-long celebration known as National Nurses Week. Each year in the United States, the week of May 6 through May 12, Florence Nightingale's birthday, we celebrate the contributions of the nearly 3.1 million nurses in this country.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale (1820-1910). In her honor, 2010 has been designated as the International Year of the Nurse by Sigma Theta Tau International, the honor society of nursing. It is to honor Nightingale and all nurses who dedicate their professional lives to the health and well-being of those in their care.

Registered nurses provide highly skilled, safe, quality care in a variety of settings amidst challenges to their professional and ethical commitment to deliver essential health care.

Amidst a shortage of professional nurses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in the November 2009 Monthly Labor Review, that "more than 581,500 new nursing positions will be created through 2018 (a 22.2 percent increase), making nursing the nation's top profession in terms of projected job growth."

Women still outnumber men by more than 15-to-1 in the overall number of RNs, but the bureau reports "for those who became RNs after 1990, there is one male for every 10 women." Male nurses continue to make a significant addition to nursing.

It is also true that without their counterparts -- LPNs, nursing assistants, and other ancillary helpers -- it would be difficult to accomplish their work.

Yes, times have changed in nursing service. I am proud to have been a part of this wonderful profession. Let us thank all of those nurses who continue to provide quality nursing care to the public.

And for those nurses who have retired -- they also deserve our thanks and praise for they most certainly contributed to the higher status the nursing profession now holds.

Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.