Every year, from May 6 through May 12, the American Nurses Association (ANA) supports National Nurses Week to celebrate the contribution of the literal backbone of the healthcare industry. These dates aren’t arbitrary: May 12 is Florence Nightingale’s birthday, and she remains a singular figure in the history of the field. What’s more, on May 8, the ANA celebrates future nurses with National Student Nurses Day in appreciation for the hard-working students who will soon graduate into new nursing careers. How did this week come about over time? Check out our timeline below to learn more about the efforts to honor the nursing field.
In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland, then working for President Eisenhower’s Department of Health, Education and Welfare asked the President for recognition of nurses with an official Nurse Day in October. The following year marked a century since Nightingale embarked on her mission to Crimea, and while National Nurse Week was observed for the first time, it wasn’t an official week recognized by either the president or Congress.
In 1974, the European-based International Council of Nurses (ICN) officially named May 12 as International Nurse Day. The U.S. had not yet followed suit, although attempts had been made throughout the 1960s and 1970s to lobby Congress to sign a joint resolution to recognize an official nurses day in the United States. However, in that same year, President Nixon issued a presidential proclamation that a week in February was officially National Nurse Week.
The ANA Board of Directors formally designated May 6 as National Nurses Day in 1982. Congress that year, some 30 years after Ms. Sutherland first lobbied Congress, agreed in a joint resolution to name that day as the “National Recognition Day for Nurses,” and Reagan signed a proclamation.
ANA’s Board expanded Nurses Day to an entire week in 1990, officially kicking the week off one week before Nightingale’s birthday. In ‘97, they added two more official recognition days: May 6 as National RN Recognition Day, May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.
The ANA formally creates “National School Nurse Day” to honor the men and women who are the first line of defense for school-aged children.
For the next week, CDI will recognize exceptional nursing and exceptional nursing students around the country and the world. We will celebrate your ongoing commitment to excellence, to your patients, and to your evolution as an informed and indispensable health care providers.
With gratitude: thank you for all you do. We couldn’t be here without you. Our students and our alumni humble us every day. Training new nurses is nothing short of a privilege and we are truly grateful for the opportunity.