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
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
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
1990 The ANA Board of Directors expanded the
recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6 - 12, 1991,
as National Nurses Week.
1993 The ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 - 12
as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and in all
1996 The ANA initiated "National RN Recognition
Day" on May 6, 1996, to honor the nation's indispensable registered nurses
for their tireless commitment 365 days a year. The ANA encourages its 53 state
and territorial nurses associations and other organizations to acknowledge May
6, 1996 as "National RN Recognition Day."
1997 The ANA Board of Directors, at the
request of the National Student Nurses Association, designated May 8 as
National Student Nurses Day.
Suggestions on How to Celebrate National Nurses Week
- Hold a special celebration or reception to recognize a nurse
or several nurses in your community. These nurses could be honored for heroic
acts, years of service to the community, exemplary courage, or their commitment
to the nursing profession over the years.
- Promote a positive, realistic image of registered nurses by
sponsoring health fairs, conducting preventive screenings in underserved areas,
organizing a walk-a-thon, etc.
- Place an article in your state or local newspaper(s) about
National Nurses Week and the value of nurses.
- Invite a politician -- local, state or federal -- to
accompany a nurse or several nurses at their place of employment for a day or
part of a day. Health care remains an issue of tremendous importance to voters.
Politicians should be visible and accountable for their positions on health
care. This is a win-win situation and it offers good media coverage potential.
- Sponsor a community-wide event, such as a coloring contest
or poem-writing contest for school children. The children could acknowledge
their favorite nurse, a famous nurse or family member who is a nurse – past or
present – in a colorful drawing. The drawings could be displayed in local
schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
- Purchase promotional items for National Nurses Week (i.e.,
RN pins, key rings, t-shirts, mugs, buttons, etc.). Click HERE for a catalog.
- Work cooperatively with hospitals, schools and libraries to
set up a special display for National Nurses Week using promotional materials,
such as, pins, t-shirts, posters, etc.
- Host a press conference. Discuss an important health care
issue in your community; release the findings of a local survey; honor a
registered nurse for a heroic act; or bestow an "honorary" nurse
title to a deserving politician or civic leader.
- Host a hearing before city council or hold a town meeting on
nursing's concerns about the recent trends in health care (nurses being
replaced by unlicensed assistive personnel, safety and quality of care issues, safe needles, nurse fatigue, etc.)
- Invite a local celebrity (one who has spoken about health
care in the past; one who has personally been a patient of a nurse; or one
whose family member has been a patient) and request his/her sponsorship of
National RN Recognition Day and/or National Nurses Week. Hold an event and ask
him/her to speak about a personal experience in which he/she was cared for by a
- Host a fund-raiser (i.e., walk-a-thon) and donate money to a
local charity. Emphasize the importance of registered nurses in our nation's
health care system; pay tribute to a local nurse; or recognize all registered
nurses who are indispensable and provide care selflessly 24-hours a day, seven
days a week, 365 days a year.
- Request a proclamation from your mayor/governor declaring
May 6 as National RN Recognition Day and/or May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.
- Host an editorial board meeting with leading state or local
newspapers. Discuss the importance of registered nurses at the bedside and the
nursing profession's concerns about current issues, specifically those related
to safety and quality of care.
- Organize a candlelight vigil on National RN Recognition Day
(May 6) in honor of the hard work and commitment of the 3.1 million
registered nurses in America.
- Suggest that your state or local newspaper solicit stories
from readers who would like to pay tribute to a nurse who provided exemplary
- Recognize all registered nurses who are in your state
legislature and hold an event at the state capitol. Take the opportunity to educate
state legislators about the role and value of registered nurses in the health
- Write and distribute a press release announcing National RN
Recognition Day and/or National Nurses Week.
- Obtain support from other nursing and health care
organizations in your area by asking them to sponsor National RN Recognition
Day and/or National Nurses Week and to hold a joint event with your