Celebrating the Compassionate Caregivers: When Is Nurses Day?

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Nurses are the heart and soul of the healthcare system, tirelessly caring for patients and saving lives every day. They are the unsung heroes who work selflessly, often going above and beyond their call of duty. Nurses deserve to be celebrated for their compassion, commitment and hard work in making a difference in their patients’ lives.

So that we may honor nurses and show our appreciation for them, nurses get their own day: National Nurses Day. But one day is not enough for all that nurses do, so now they get an extra dose of kudos with National Nurses Week, also called Nurses Appreciation Week.1

If you are new to nursing, you might be wondering, When is Nurses Day? and When is Nurses Week? Read on to learn the history, significance and importance of recognizing nurses and their many contributions to the profession as well as to health and well-being. 

In This Article:

When Is Nurses Day?

National Nurses Day is celebrated each year on May 6. This date holds significant historical importance as it relates to events in the life of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.1

Who Is Florence Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820, was a British nurse who revolutionized healthcare during the Crimean War in the 1850s.2 Her dedication and pioneering work in nursing laid the foundation for the nursing profession as we know it today.

In the United States, national recognition of nurses was first officially proposed in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1982, under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, that National Recognition of Nurses Day was officially declared every May 6.3

What is Nurses Week? And when is Nurses Week? What started as one day to celebrate nurses on National Nurses Day turned into a full week, which begins on May 6 and culminates on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. Hence, National Nurses Week was established to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s efforts in Crimea and pay tribute to her and all other nurses who make a difference worldwide.

During this week, various activities and events are organized worldwide to recognize and celebrate nurses’ invaluable contributions to our society.

What Happens on National Nurses Day?

National Nurses Day is a day to recognize and honor the dedicated nurses who work to provide quality healthcare. Healthcare institutions, communities and individuals use this day to acknowledge and celebrate all that nurses do year-round for their communities.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities celebrate National Nurses Day by hosting special events, offering tokens of appreciation, or organizing awards ceremonies to recognize outstanding nurses. It's a day to highlight the critical role nurses play in delivering healthcare services and improving patients' lives.

What Happens During Nurses Appreciation Week?

Nurses are often the first and last faces patients see during their hospital stays, and they play a critical role in ensuring patients’ well-being. Because nurses are not just healthcare professionals, but are also dedicated caregivers who offer comfort, support and expertise 24/7, this week gives communities, patients, families and healthcare institutions an opportunity to express their gratitude to nurses for their hard work and commitment to quality care.

5 Ways To Celebrate Nurses

Nurses Appreciation Week extends the celebration beyond a single day, giving us more time and opportunities to express our gratitude to nurses. Here are some of the ways communities, patients and hospitals can make sure nurses know they are valued:

1. Offer Educational Programs

Hospitals and healthcare organizations often arrange educational sessions and workshops during Nurses Appreciation Week. These programs aim to enhance nurses’ skills, knowledge and professional growth.

2. Promote Community Outreach

Some communities organize events that involve the local population. These events may include blood drives, health fairs and wellness workshops to promote health awareness.

3. Tokens of Appreciation

Many hospitals and institutions provide small gifts, such as personalized mugs, pens, logoed apparel or certificates, as tokens of appreciation to their nursing staff.

4. Patient Testimonials

Patients and their families can take the opportunity during Nurses Appreciation Week to share their stories and express their gratitude for exceptional care they have received from nurses.

5. Nursing Excellence Awards

Nursing Excellence Awards are a common feature of Nurses Appreciation Week. These awards recognize nurses who have shown exceptional dedication, competence and compassion in their profession.

Other Nursing Days of Recognition

Beyond National Nurses Day and Nurses Appreciation Week, other types of nurses have their own days of recognition. Certified Nurses Day is on March 19, National Student Nurses Day is on May 8, School Nurses Day is on Wednesday during National Nurses Week, International Nurses Day is on May 12, and Operating Room Nurse Day is on November 14.These special occasions invite us to recognize and celebrate various types of nurses.

A Tribute to Florence Nightingale and the Nurses Who Followed

The selection of May 6 to May 12 as Nurses Appreciation Week holds special significance in celebrating the legacy of Florence Nightingale. Without her work, healthcare might look vastly different. She kept meticulous records used to improve patients’ healthcare and create efficiency for nurses and medical staff.2 Nurses are the backbone of healthcare, and their commitment to patient care deserves our utmost respect and appreciation.

National Nurses Day and Nurses Appreciation Week give healthcare institutions, communities and individuals a chance to come together to express their gratitude through various activities, awards and tokens of appreciation. It’s a time to celebrate the compassion, dedication and expertise of nurses who make a difference in the lives of countless individuals and families.

At Grand Canyon University, we celebrate nurses year-round. Learn more about the College of Nursing and the Health Care Professions and the opportunities you have to make a difference in our accelerated BSN program. Complete the form on this page to connect with a university counselor.

1 Nursing World. (n.d.). National Nurses Week History. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2023. 

2 Selanders, L. (2021, Aug. 9). Florence Nightingale. Britannica. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2023. 

The American Presidency Project. (n.d.). Proclamation 4913-National Recognition Day for Nurses, 1982. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2023. 

4 Holiday Insights. (n.d.). National Nurses Day and Nurses Week. Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2023. 

Approved by the dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Nov. 27, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.