National Nurses Week: May 6-12


National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12th. Nurses week exists in celebration and recognition of the contributions that nurses and nursing make to the community.

Ways that you too can honor a nurse in your life:

  • Hold a special celebration or reception to recognize one or more nurses in your community for heroic acts, years of service to the community, exemplary courage, or commitment to the profession.
  • Promote a positive, realistic image of RNs by sponsoring health fairs, conducting preventive screenings in underserved areas, organizing a walk-a-thon.
  • Sponsor a community-wide event, such as a coloring or poem-writing contest for students. The children could acknowledge their favorite nurse, a famous nurse, or family member who is a nurse. The drawings or poems could be displayed.
  • Invite a local celebrity who has spoken about health care, been a patient; or has a family member who has been a patient) and request sponsorship of National RN Recognition Day and/or National Nurses Week.
  • Host a fund-raiser, such as a walk-a-thon, and donate money to a local charity.
  • Emphasize the importance of RNs in the nation’s health care system; pay tribute to a local nurse; or recognize all RNs who provide care all day, year-round.

A Brief History of National Nurses Week:

  • 1953 Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a “Nurse Day” in October of the following year. The proclamation was never made.
  • 1954 National Nurse Week was observed from October 11 – 16. The year of the observance marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. Representative Frances P. Bolton sponsored the bill for a nurse week. Apparently, a bill for a National Nurse Week was introduced in the 1955 Congress, but no action was taken. Congress discontinued its practice of joint resolutions for national weeks of various kinds.
  • 1972 Again a resolution was presented by the House of Representatives for the President to proclaim “National Registered Nurse Day.” It did not occur. 1974 In January of that year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12 would be “International Nurse Day.” (May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale.) Since 1965, the ICN has celebrated “International Nurse Day.”
  • 1974 In February of that year, a week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, and President Nixon issued a proclamation.
  • 1978 New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as “Nurses Day.” Edward Scanlan, of Red Bank, N.J., took up the cause to perpetuate the recognition of nurses in his state. Mr. Scanlan had this date listed in Chase’s Calendar of Annual Events. He promoted the celebration on his own.
  • 1981 ANA, along with various nursing organizations, rallied to support a resolution initiated by nurses in New Mexico, through their Congressman, Manuel Lujan, to have May 6, 1982, established as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”
  • 1982 In February, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982 as “National Nurses Day.” The action affirmed a joint resolution of the United States Congress designating May 6 as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”
  • 1982 President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6, 1982.

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