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The History of National Nurses Week

Nurse history

As far as annual events go, Nurses Week is one of — if not THE — most important event celebrates on a large scale, and one we wholeheartedly look forward to. It’s also celebrated across the United States to honor and recognize the contributions and hard work of nurses in every setting. 

The history of National Nurses Week dates back to the early 1950s when a public official wrote a bold letter to the President of the United States, yet it took two decades to take hold. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to revisit how National Nurses Week came to be.

When did Nurses Week start?

The idea of officially designating a time to honor nurses was first proposed in 1953 by Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Sutherland sent a letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, suggesting the establishment of a "Nurse Day" to recognize and appreciate nurses’ hard work and dedication. 

The proclamation was not made. However, in 1954, a Nurses Week observance did take place from October 11-16, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to care for soldiers during the Crimean War, according to the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) website.

That same year, Representative Frances P. Bolton from Ohio sponsored a bill for a National Nurse Week, but no action was taken then or for the next two decades.

It wasn't until 1974 that National Nurses Week officially began. That year, President Nixon proclaimed that the week would be celebrated annually. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1993 that May 6–12 became the permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week. 

Years later, the ANA expanded National Nurses Week to a month-long observance, known as National Nurses Month, to provide more opportunities for recognition and appreciation of nurses and to raise awareness about the importance of nursing in health care.

In the years that followed, has continued to make it a mission to recognize and celebrate nurses during Nurses Week and throughout the year, alongside organizations like the ANA.’s celebration includes creating special blog content, videos, giveaways, and virtual events that highlight our appreciation for the nursing community.

How did International Nurses Day come to be?

In 1974, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) officially proclaimed May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, as International Nurses Day, although the ICN had been celebrating this day since 1965. 

International Nurses Day honors nurses around the world. Each year, the ICN chooses a theme that focuses on specific aspects of nursing, such as patient care, education, or the impact of nursing on public health. The ICN also organizes events and activities that honor nurses for the invaluable role they play in ensuring the well-being of individuals and communities on a global scale. 

National Nurses Week has become a significant and cherished observance. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities hold special events, ceremonies, and activities to honor the dedication and hard work of their nurses. Schools, universities, and nursing associations also use the occasion to raise awareness about the vital role of nursing and to inspire future generations of nurses. For, the goal is to continue finding ways to provide meaningful recognition to nurses 365 days per year.

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