Take a moment to tell a nurse, thank you! May 6-12 is National Nurses’ Week, an annual recognition of the contribution of the nation’s 3 million nurses, and May 12 is the birthdate of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing.

At the Christ Hospital Health Network, which employs some 1,500 nurses and has an affiliated nursing college, that celebration will include a series of nursing unit celebrations highlighted by a presentation of clinical advancement awards and the Larry Otto Family Care Award for outstanding health professionals. A total of 74 of the 139 nurses in the Christ Hospital clinical advancement program will be recognized.

Amid all the changes in health care, nurses are playing an increasingly important role.

“One of my mentors used to say that the reason patients come to the hospital is because they need nursing care,” says Julie Holt, chief nursing officer at The Christ Hospital Health Network. “Their physicians are with them for a shorter period of time, but nurses are taking care of them around the clock.”

Holt, a registered nurse, had an aunt who was a nurse and an uncle who was a surgeon, but she chose nursing over medical school.

“I like the increased touch of the nursing side,” she says. “A lot of people think there’s a progression from nursing to medical school, but it’s not. It’s two completely different fields.”

She says the focus of nursing is wellness: “helping people be as health as they can be within any limits they might have.”

There’s a connection between nursing and the founding of The Christ Hospital. In 1889 Isabella Thoburn was brought to Cincinnati by soap maker James N. Gamble to launch a program to train deaconesses and missionaries in religious, educational and philanthropic work. One day she found a sick woman in the street and took her into her home. That led to creation of a 10-bed hospital named Christ’s Hospital initially in the West End. Soon the deaconesses’ training program was expanded, paving the way for the formation of the Christ Hospital School of Nursing, now the Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences, in 1902.

In the wake of the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010, the Institute of Medicine undertook a wide-ranging study on the future of nursing and came up with eight recommendations including one to increase the percentage of nurses with bachelor’s degrees nationally to 80 percent by 2020.

“There’s a lot of research on patient outcomes and levels of education in nursing,” says Holt, who says about 60 percent of the nurses at Christ Hospital have bachelor’s degrees today. “There’s a lot of correlation, although not causal studies, showing that patients have better outcomes over all when they’re cared for by nurses with baccalaureate degrees.”

In 2013, about 40 percent of nursing students nationally graduated with bachelor’s degrees, up from just under 30 percent in 2009, according to the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, which is leading efforts to implement the recommendations.