Nurses make a difference in the lives of their patients and coworkers every day, and each year America honors their hard work and dedication with a national week-long celebration. From May 6th through May 12th, medical organizations and nursing associations recognize stand-out nurses in their communities and the tradition of a profession that saves our lives and touches our hearts.
National Nurses Week
National Nurses Week is one of the nation's principal health care happenings, giving recognition to outstanding nurses and sharing nursing education with the public. The week’s festivities, supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA), kick off with National Nurses Day on May 6 and close on May 12th, which is, not coincidentally, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
The History of Nurses Day
- 1953 – A proposal is sent to President Eisenhower to honor “Nurse Day” the following year. The proposal is sent by Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and it goes unanswered.
- 1954 – October 11-16 is celebrated as National Nurse Week, recognizing the centennial anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War.
- 1972 – Another bid for “National Registered Nurse Day” goes to the White House, but again goes unsupported.
- 1974 – The International Council of Nurses announces May 12 as "International Nurse Day" and one month later, President Nixon issues a formal proclamation designating a National Nurses Week.
- 1978 – The governor of New Jersey, Brendon Byre, names May 6 as “Nurses Day.”
- 1981 – The ANA rallies to have May 6 established as “National Recognition Day for Nurses,” following the lead of New Mexico congressman Manuel Lujan.
- 1982 – The ANA formally recognizes May 6 as “National Nurses Day,” alongside an action of Congress designating the date as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” Ronald Reagan signs the official proclamation.
- 1990 – The ANA Board of Directors gives recognition to the entire week of May 6th-May 12th as a spotlight on national nursing.
- 1996-1997 – Additional nursing acknowledgment dates are given, including National RN Recognition Day on May 6, National Student Nurse Day on May 8 and International Nurses Day on May 12.
Nursing Week Celebrations
National Nurses Week festivities include banquets and appreciation dinners, state and city declarations, nursing education workshops and seminars, and other community events that give honor to the nursing profession. Many organizations honor their nurses with gifts or awards and communities distinguish the profession with a variety of activities. Some ways to celebrate National Nurses Week include:
- Health fairs promoting the nursing profession and healthier lifestyles, offering health education to those who may otherwise go uninformed.
- Wearing an “RN Pin” as a nurse or supporting nurses by wearing nursing appreciation apparel on Nurses Day.
- Establishing a candlelight ceremony on National Nurses Day to honor the hard work and dedication of the nearly 3.1 million registered nurses in America.
- Paying a special tribute to a nurse who has impacted your own life.
- Organizing a free cholesterol and/or blood pressure preventive screenings in underserved areas. Educating the community about other recommended preventative screenings, including skin cancer, glaucoma, breast cancer or STD testing.
- Hosting a fundraiser, such as a 5k race, and donating money to a local charity in the name of nursing. Let the fund-raiser stress the significance of registered nurses in the American health care system or pay tribute to local nursing heroes.
A Reason to Celebrate
Nurses are nationally honored during National Nurses Week, but the nursing profession deserves constant appreciation and recognition for the lives it affects. The nurse is:
- An Educator – Uncertain and worried patients have many questions when spending any amount of time in a health care facility, and nurses are there with the answers. Nurses also act as educators to hospital staff, regarding patient care and administrative material.
- A Caretaker – A nurse’s patient care responsibilities are extensive; taking information, checking vitals, administering medicine, assisting in surgery and providing comfort are commonplace to the seasoned nurse.
- A Long Term Health Care Provider – Typically, as a patient’s first point of contact, nurses develop a connection with patients, learn their history and establish the best methods of health care that can be provided.
Communities continue to strive for recognition of the importance of nurses and celebrate the dedication they show their patients. Although National Nurses Day comes only once annually, sincere gratitude is felt for those in nursing the entire year through.
Nurses will continue to be celebrated in our culture and in our daily lives. Earning your degree from an accredited nursing university, such as Loyola University New Orleans, can offer valuable knowledge and skills for a successful nursing career. Request more information to get started!