FORT DRUM, New York – Leaders and staff of the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC), Fort Drum, New York, kicked off National Nurses Week with a cake-cutting ceremony at the Guthrie Ambulatory Healthcare Clinic May 6.National Nurses Week was first observed in 1954 and is celebrated each year, starting on May 6 and ending on Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12. It’s a time to recognize and honor the contributions of all nurses and the vital role they play in society.“Time and again, nurses go above and beyond what is expected of caregivers, often working long hours with little to no breaks to help people when they need it most,” Lt. Col. Kristine Broger, the MEDDAC deputy commander for nursing, said during the ceremony. “Each and every one of our dedicated nurses are unwavering in their commitment to making a difference in the lives of all those they come in contact with.”Additionally, not only has May been designated as Nurses Month, but 2020 has been designated as the Year of the Nurse, highlighting the significance of nursing and the importance of their role in patient care.“It’s appropriate that on this year, not only do we celebrate Nurses Week, but also Nurses Month and the Year of the Nurse, because, as this year’s theme states, ‘one week is not enough,’” Broger said. “One week is not enough time to recognize those professionals who continue to fulfill their obligation by delivering world-class care, developing ground-breaking research, and are steadfast in their role as committed advocates in ensuring patients receive the quality-driven healthcare of which they are entitled.”This year’s celebration takes place as the nation deals with a public health emergency during the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, as nurses across the country work diligently to care for others during the crisis.“That fact is self-evident in the selfless and often heroic actions shouldered by nurses throughout the country,” Broger said. “Nurses have been on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 since day one, continually placing themselves at risk in order to care for the health and safety of their communities.”Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing was a concern when planning how to observe Nurses Week safely while still giving the nursing staff the recognition and credit they deserve. To mitigate the risk of too much personal contact, the kick-off celebration occurred with only a small group, while others participated virtually by way of teleconference.“COVID-19 has changed how we conduct healthcare,” said Col. Rob Heath, the MEDDAC commander. “It’s changed how we interact as an organization. The fact we can still pause and get together in small groups to do this kind of event, it means a lot.”Before concluding, Broger unveiled a new plaque to recognize the MEDDAC nurses who have earned board certification in their specific specialties.“I present this plaque to commemorate and recognize those MEDDAC nurses who continue to hone their skills and enhance their professional reputation,” Broger said during the unveiling. “Thank you for your continued service and for being a leader in your field.”The plaque recognizes nurses who have received board certification in one of the seven specialty areas within the MEDDAC: critical care, executive nursing, nurse case management, infection control, medical-surgical, perioperative nursing, and first assist.