By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Juan Salinas-Len, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Nurses and staff at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth celebrated the 107th birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps with a cake cutting and blessing of the hands ceremony May 13.
The Navy Nurse Corps birthday is celebrated along with National Nurses Week, which is recognized annually May 6-12.
The ceremony began with Capt. Darin K. Via, commanding officer, speaking about the impact nurses have.
"You are a huge part of our organization - you're a huge part of what we do every day," Via said. "We could not function without you, whether it's the nurse taking care of patients by their bedside, or the practitioner who has moved on to independent practice. You fill the spectrum of jobs, duties and responsibilities across everything we do. Thank you for everything you do, not only for our patients, but for the rest of us who serve within Navy Medicine."
Then Cmdr. Charles Rowley, staff chaplain, said the prayer "Nurses Hands." Several of NMCP's directors and the command master chief read birthday wishes from the Navy surgeon general, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery's force master chief, and chiefs of the Nurse Corps, Medical Corps, Medical Service Corps and Dental Corps.
"Navy Medicine is honored to celebrate the birthday of such an honorable group of medical professionals," read Cmdr. Lonnie Hosea, the associate director for Nursing Services, from the letter from Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, surgeon general. "Our Nurse Corps officers fly with wounded from battle-torn areas; provide care in the fleet and on hospital ships; establish nursing schools, clinics, and small hospitals in remote areas of the world; and administer or command military treatment facilities worldwide. Navy nurses are professional scientists, researchers, teachers, providers and clinicians. They set the standard for military medicine, and continue to have a prominent place in our United States Navy."
Capt. Sandra Hearn, director for Nursing Services, read the letter from the chief of the Nurse Corps, Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle.
"I want to take this opportunity to personally say 'thank you' to all the nurses who make up the Navy nursing team - active and reserve component nurses, as well as our federal civilians and contract nurse peers," McCormick-Boyle wrote. Without the entire team working together, we could not have met the operational and health benefit mission requirements asked of our Corps.
"In keeping with this year's National Nurses Week theme, 'Ethical Practice, Quality Care,' Navy nurses embrace caring, compassion and competence while delivering the highest quality care to our patients and their families," McCormick-Boyle continued. "Because of you, the Navy nursing team stands among the Navy's most prominent officers and respected clinicians."
After the reading of the birthday letters, the command's most senior nurse, Capt. Denise Johnson, and the most junior nurse, Ensign Sandra Gutierrez, cut the birthday cake.
After the cake cutting, Cmdr. Charles Rowley, staff chaplain, anointed the hands of each nurse during the traditional blessing of the hands ceremony. This tradition, which is repeated at hospitals across the country during National Nurses Week, blesses the hands of those who bring comfort and healing to those they touch.
There are more than 4,000 Navy nurses in the Corps today, with more than 430 assigned to NMCP. The Nursing Services Directorate consists of 431 active duty, 192 civilians, 156 contractors and 12 reserve personnel. More than 50 of NMCP's active duty nurses are deployed aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) in support of Continuing Promise 2015.
The Navy Nurse Corps was established May 13, 1908, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Naval Appropriations Bill that authorized its creation as a unique Navy staff corps. The first 20 to graduate were known as the "Sacred Twenty," and of them, three reported for duty at Portsmouth in April 1909. Among them was Lenah Higbee, who became chief nurse at Portsmouth, and later, the second superintendent of nurses for the Navy.