The Origins of Nurses Week

The Origins of Nurses Week

What is Nurses Week?

  • Nurses Week is an annual celebration that recognizes the contributions and achievements of nurses in the healthcare field.
  • Nurses Week is celebrated from May 6 to May 12 every year in the United States, and on May 12 internationally.
  • Nurses Week is a time to honor, thank, and appreciate nurses for their dedication, compassion, and professionalism in caring for patients and communities.

Why do we celebrate Nurses Week?

  • Nurses Week is celebrated to raise awareness of the vital role that nurses play in improving health outcomes, promoting health equity, and advancing health innovation.
  • Nurses Week is also celebrated to acknowledge the challenges and opportunities that nurses face in their practice, education, research, and leadership.
  • Nurses Week is an opportunity to advocate for the nursing profession and its interests, such as safe staffing, quality care, fair compensation, and professional development.

How did Nurses Week start?

  • The origins of Nurses Week can be traced back to the 1950s when several attempts were made to establish a national recognition day for nurses.
  • The first proposal was made in 1953 by Dorothy Sutherland, an official from the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, but it was rejected by President Eisenhower.
  • The first observance of National Nurse Week was in 1954, to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea, but it was not repeated in the following years.
  • Several bills and resolutions were introduced in Congress in the 1960s and 1970s to designate a National Nurse Day or Week, but none of them were passed.
  • In 1974, the International Council of Nurses declared May 12 as International Nurse Day, and the same year, President Nixon proclaimed National Nurse Week.
  • In 1978, New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne declared May 6 as Nurses Day, and Edward Scanlan, a private citizen, promoted the celebration nationally.
  • In 1981, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and other nursing organizations supported a resolution from New Mexico to have May 6, 1982, as National Recognition Day for Nurses.
  • In 1982, President Reagan signed a proclamation for National Recognition Day for Nurses, and in 1990, the ANA expanded the celebration to a week-long event.
  • In 1993, the ANA established the permanent dates of May 6 to May 12 for National Nurses Week, and in 1996, the ANA initiated the National Nurses Day theme.
  • In 1997, the ANA designated May 8 as National Student Nurses Day, and in 2003, the ANA designated the Wednesday within Nurses Week as National School Nurse Day.
  • In 2020, the ANA declared the entire month of May as National Nurses Month, in recognition of the extraordinary work of nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.