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What Is Nurses Week?

Apr 30, 2020
The Trusted Team

We celebrate Nurses Week every year from May 6th to May 12th to shine a spotlight on the incredible nurses across the country that have devoted their lives to the betterment of the lives of others. But what is Nurses Week?

What Is Nurses Week?

Nurses Week is an annual celebration of all that nurses around the world do for their communities. It's our time to recognize, appreciate, and invest in the nurses we know or work with every day as well as the entire nursing industry as whole.

And while this week is inclusive of all nurses, there are some more specific celebrations throughout. May 6th (the first Wednesday of Nurses Week) is National School Nurse Day, May 8th brings particular attention to student nurses on National Student Nurses Day, and May 12th is International Nurses Day!

What’s different about this year?

Nurses Week 2020 is a very special celebration, as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. So, not only is this week Nurses Week 2020, it’s Florence’s 200th birthday, the apex of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife!

Given everything this year has thrown at us in the form of COVID-19, there isn’t a better or more appropriate time to focus on recognizing, appreciating, and investing in our incredible nurses across the globe.

We’ll talk more about Nurses Week 2020 and this year’s celebration in the coming days, but for now, let’s take a look at the history of Nurses Week.

Where Did Nurses Week Come From?

It all began in 1953, when Dorothy Sutherland from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare proposed a “Nurse Day” annually in October. Unfortunately, that day was never enacted.

Although, not long after in 1954, the first Nurses Week took place from October 11-16th, marking the 100-year anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War. However, the week was not yet an annual occurrence and would not appear again, at least in part, until 1974.

In 1974, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) decided that May 12, the birthday of Nightingale, would serve as International Nurse Day. Soon after, President Nixon declared that a week of February would be celebrated as National Nurse Week.

Then, after a whirlwind effort by local governors and the ANA, a proclamation landed in front of President Reagan that declared May 6, 1982, the official National Recognition Day for Nurses.

And finally, in 1991, we welcomed the return of a week-long celebration of nurses, when the ANA expanded the recognition of nurses to over an entire week, gaining the title of National Nurses Week. In 1993, the ANA Board of Directors agreed upon May 6-12th as the permanent, and annually recurring, dates of Nurses Week. (Dates courtesy of the ANA.)

And thus, the annual celebration of National Nurses Week was born.

Click here to check out some exclusive Nurses Week 2020 events, or here for our Guide to Nurses Week 2020!