National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale's birthday. These permanent dates enhance planning and position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event. As of 1998, May 8 was designated as National Student Nurses Day, to be celebrated annually. And as of 2003, National School Nurse Day is celebrated on the Wednesday within National Nurses Week (May 6-12) each year.
The nursing profession has been supported and promoted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) since 1896. Each of ANA's state and territorial nurses’ associations promotes the nursing profession at the state and regional levels. Each conducts celebrations on these dates to recognize the contributions that nurses and nursing make to the community.
The ANA supports and encourages National Nurses Week recognition programs through the state and district nurses’ associations, other specialty nursing organizations, educational facilities, and independent health care companies and institutions.
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 proclamation.
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 own.
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 6, 1982.
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 subsequent years.
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 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.
How families and friends can support the nurses in their life
Offer a listening ear. Understand how best to celebrate your nurse hero by asking them how they’re doing.
Write encouraging notes. Send them off to work with an uplifting message (You’re amazing! You’ve got this! Have a great day!)
Cheers to the nurses. Plan a celebratory night out with friends.
Take something off their plate. This could be as small as taking on extra chores around the house, picking them up from work, or walking the dog so they can rest.
Prep a special meal. Cook a homemade meal they can take to work or order their favorite food during their break.
Plan a staycation. During their days off, take advantage of what your hometown has to offer – or maybe just binge the newest episodes of your favorite show.
Write a thank you note. Show how much you appreciate your nurses with a handwritten card.
Give them a gift card or bring in a sweet treat. Pick up goodies from a bakery or coffee from a favorite local shop.
Be each other’s cheerleader. This can be as easy as writing a quick post-it-note and leaving it on someone’s desk or giving a shout out in a meeting.
Support fellow nurses while treating yourself! Show some love to one of these nurse-owned businesses.
Toast to one another. Plan a team happy hour or luncheon.
Be an ally. Connect with nurses who are new to the field to see how they are doing.
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