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The ANA’s Nurses Month Activities Focus on Recognition, Support

3 smiling nurses

This year, buildings in several major cities will practically glow during National Nurses Week to recognize nurses’ remarkable contributions to the healthcare profession. 

National Nurses Week and National Nurses Month will also be a time to reflect on challenges, such as mental health issues, burnout, and inequities in health care.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is continuing their tradition of shining a spotlight on the contributions of the nation’s more than 5 million registered nurses throughout May. While the ANA has activities planned throughout the month, the organization will concentrate most of its efforts on National Nurses Week, May 6-12. 

Lighting up the sky

Debbie Hatmaker, RN

Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN, Chief Nursing Officer and Acting CEO for the ANA, said a major difference between this year and previous years’ celebrations is a greater emphasis on public engagement and interaction. Hence, the debut of the ANA’s Nurses Light Up the Sky campaign, which is designed to rally public support for nurses across the country. 

In honor of Nurses Week, landmarks in four major cities — the Wrigley Building in Chicago, Illinois; the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon; Capella Towers in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and City Hall in Houston, Texas — will be illuminated either on May 6 or May 7 to recognize nurses. 

Hatmaker added that the ANA hopes to soon announce that even more cities will be participating to help “shine a spotlight” on Nurses Week. 

Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, RN

“We’re really excited about the Nurses Light Up the Sky campaign,” said Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, President of the ANA. “Seeing the bright lights in the community is something we hope that nurses will look at with a sense of pride.”

Members of the public are being encouraged to snap photos of themselves outside one of these lighted buildings and share the photos on social media, using the hashtag #NursesLightUpTheSky. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the general public to shout out nurses who have provided excellent care for them or members of their families,” Hatmaker said.

In addition to posting photos, the public is also being asked to use the hashtag #ThankANurse to share their personal healthcare experiences about nurses who have gone above and beyond to provide patient care.

“I think certainly nurses appreciate the gratitude, particularly coming from patients,” Hatmaker said. “Receiving positive comments means a lot to them.”

“It’s really about engaging everyone — the nurses as well as the general public,” added Mensik Kennedy. “It’s a true recognition of the power of nursing and the dedication nurses have to their patients.” 

Supporting nurses’ mental health

As part of the Thank a Nurse campaign, which will run throughout Nurses Month, members of the public have the opportunity to make a monetary donation that will help support critical American Nurses Foundation initiatives, such as providing mental health support to nurses, supporting nurse research on new care solutions, and advancing health equity.

Mensik Kennedy said much of their focus during May will be on the mental health challenges nurses often endure. The foundation’s Well-Being Initiative includes several resources to help nurses in distress, such as a free app to support nurses’ mental health and well-being, free counseling resources, and hotlines and toll-free numbers that offer resources and support for suicide prevention and substance use disorders.

“Often nurses are afraid to admit they might be experiencing mental health issues,” she said. “While we know that nursing is a rewarding profession, it’s also a challenging one. We’re really focusing on self-care.”

The American Nurses Foundation Stress and Burnout Prevention Program also seeks to help nurses reduce burnout, manage stress, and increase their confidence. The program includes a confidential self-assessment for nurses to measure their stress levels and free customizable tools to help manage stress.

Hatmaker noted that nurses continue to report elevated levels of stress and job burnout, even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Similarly,’s 2024 Nurse Salary and Work-Life Report found that 54% of nurses had experienced prolonged stress in the past two years, while 59% had experienced burnout.

“The work environment in health care is still very stressful now,” she said. “We’re still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Burnout is a very serious issue that we’re dealing with right now.”

The Thank a Nurse campaign will also help support the Reimagining Nursing Initiative, a $14 million initiative by the American Nurses Foundation, which is funding 10 nurse-led pilot projects that are seeking to transform health care through innovative technology solutions and new models of care.

Promoting health equity

Another ANA focus during Nurses Week and throughout the year is the promotion of greater healthcare equity across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups and improving access to care in underserved communities.

“We knew before the pandemic that health care was not delivered equitably across all demographic groups,” Hatmaker said. “We were certainly made even more aware of those inequities during the pandemic. We’re really looking at where we need to focus our lens on to improve health equity.”

Supporting employer-based events

Like in past years, the ANA will continue to support employer-based efforts for healthcare organizations that are planning their own Nurses Week or Nurses Month celebrations. The ANA has developed a Nurses Week Toolkit, with social media assets, printable posters, thank you cards, and other materials that organizations can use to plan their own events. 

While Nurse Week and Nurses Month recognition events are important to employees, Hatmaker said healthcare organizations need to recognize nurse contributions throughout the year. 

“It’s not necessarily about having a party on one day, it’s about nurses receiving the support they need throughout the year,” she said.