National Nurses Day
annually on May 6th (since 1982)
Edwin Scanlan in 1978
President Ronald Reagan on March 24th, 1982
National Nurses Day honors and celebrates nurses. The holiday is part of National Nurses Week. It opens the week, and the week concludes on May 12 with Florence Nightingale's birthday. National Student Nurses Day and National School Nurse Day are also a part of the week.
In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the newly-founded U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower urging him to proclaim a "Nurse Day" in October 1954. He didn't, but a National Nurses Week was held that year from October 11–16, marking the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea. It wasn't until twenty years later that another National Nurses Week was held after President Nixon proclaimed it in 1974.
In 1978, Brendon Byrne, Governor of New Jersey, declared May 6 as Nurses Day, at the urging of Edward Scanlan, who came up with the idea for the day and hoped it would become nationalized. Scanclan chose May 6 as its date because it preceded National Hospital Week and Florence Nightingale's birthday. As Scanlan had hoped, his idea spread around the country.
In 1981, Carol Lewis, a registered nurse at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, initiated a resolution to have May 6 declared as National Recognition Day for Nurses. It was sponsored by Congressman Manuel Lujan (R-NM) and promoted by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The joint resolution was adopted by Congress and President Reagan proclaimed May 6, 1982, to be National Recognition Day for Nurses. The ANA recognized the day as National Nurses Day and it has continued to be observed since. The ANA also created National Nurses Week in 1990.
There are more than 4 million registered nurses in the United States. Nursing is a specialized profession that is built on a bedrock of compassion and dedication but also is constantly changing and adapting. Nurses are instrumental to public health through their work of diagnosing and educating. They provide care from a patient's life until their death and "use their judgment to integrate objective data with subjective experience of a patient's biological, physical and behavioral needs." They follow the nursing process of assessment, diagnosis, outcomes/planning, implementation, and evaluation.
Nurses have many specialties and a range of responsibilities, and are separated into three main divisions: registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses—which include nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists—and licensed practical nurses. Today we honor and celebrate all types of nurses for their expertise in their field, dedication to their patients, and role in advancing public health.
How to Observe National Nurses Day
Some ways the day could be observed include:
- Thank any nurses you know. You could thank a nurse who has helped you or one that is a family member or friend. Besides giving them wishes of thanks, you could give them gifts or a card, write them a letter, make a post about them on social media, or throw them a party.
- During past observances, restaurants, food and beverage companies, clothing companies, and fuel companies have provided deals or given out free items to nurses. If you are a nurse, watch for these today!
- Visit the Florence Nightingale Museum, the Museum of Nursing History, or the University of Maryland School of Nursing Living History Museum.
- Read a book or watch a documentary about nursing.
- Start on the path to becoming a nurse.