Each year, National Nurses Week begins on May 6 with a celebration of National Nurses Day, and ends on May 12, to mark the anniversary of the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of professional nursing.
Nursing specialties are also celebrated during this week, including National Student Nurses Day on May 8, National School Nurse Day on the Wednesday that falls during this week (May 9 this year), and International Nurses Day, celebrated worldwide on May 12.
In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the US Department of Health wrote a letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower suggesting that he declare a National Nurses Day. President Eisenhower did not follow her suggestion, however, and any celebration honoring nurses was left to private citizens. Beginning in 1954, on the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s mission to care for wounded and sick soldiers in the Crimean War, National Nurses Week was celebrated, but not nationally recognized.
In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon declared a National Nurses Week. In 1981, a resolution was started in New Mexico to declare May 6 as National Recognition Day for Nurses and in 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6th National Nurses Day.
National Nurses Day is currently celebrated with special events and banquets to honor local nurses. Seminars are offered, as are public proclamations by local governments to raise awareness of nursing and educate the public on the importance of the profession.
For the past 16 years, the public has rated nursing the most honest and ethical profession, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA). The slogan of the ANA is “advocating, leading, caring.” Nurses serve the public in a wide array of settings and roles by promoting and improving health care.
Each year, the ANA chooses a theme for National Nurses Week that highlights a specific area of nursing. In 2017, the theme was “Year of the Healthy Nurse.” This year’s theme is “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, and Influence.” The ANA encourages organizations and individuals to show support for nurses during this week and appreciation for the work they do.
Throughout this week, remember to thank a nurse, whether it’s privately with gifts, flowers, or a special dinner, or publicly by participating in a seminar or event to recognize the contribution nurses make to the health needs and well-being of everyone.