Be Sure to Thank a Nurse Today!

Each year, we celebrate National Nurses Day on May 6. This kicks off Nurses Week, which culminates in International Nurses Day on May 12.

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National Nurses Day is May 6 and kicks off Nurses Week, which culminates in International Nurses Day on May 12 - the birth date of Florence Nightingale.

National Nurses Day is a wonderful opportunity for you and your loved ones to express your gratitude and admiration for the dedication and compassion of nurses who provide essential care and support to patients and families.

Ideas for celebrating this special day

Send thank-you cards. Write heartfelt thank-you cards expressing gratitude to the nurses who have provided care and support. Personalized messages detailing the impact of the nurse's care can make the gesture even more meaningful. A photo of the person they cared for with a personalized message on the back is most precious.

Organize a recognition event and/or create a video tribute. An event could involve presenting certificates of appreciation, giving awards, or sharing testimonials about the exceptional care nurses provide. A video could feature messages of thanks and appreciation, to be shared directly with nurses or on various social media platforms, as a heartwarming reminder of the positive impact they have on others.

Provide gifts or tokens of appreciation. Give thoughtful gifts or tokens of appreciation to nurses as a gesture of gratitude. This could include flowers, gift baskets, handwritten notes, homemade gifts, or gift cards to their favorite stores or restaurants. (Nurses can usually accept gifts valued up to $25 without complication. Gifts of any higher value generally need permission from their supervisor.)

There are things that nurses appreciate far more than money:

  • homegrown vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers

  • handsewn gloves, scarves, slippers, and blankets

  • handmade/hand-decorated ornaments, picture frames, mugs, and other items

  • homebaked cookies, cakes, cobblers, casseroles

Plan a special meal or treat. Prepare a special meal or treat for the nurses to enjoy during their shift. This could involve baking homemade goodies, ordering catering from a local restaurant, or organizing a potluck with contributions from family, friends, and neighbors. (Note any known allergies!)

Donate to nursing organizations. Make donations to nursing organizations or charities in honor of National Nurses Day, which often also offers the opportunity to name a special nurse. Supporting organizations that promote nursing education, research, and professional development is a meaningful way to show appreciation for the nursing profession.

Spread awareness. Use social media or other platforms to raise awareness about National Nurses Day and the important role that nurses play in healthcare. Sharing stories, photos, and messages of gratitude can inspire others to join in celebrating nurses.

The history of celebrating nurses

People have celebrated nurses for decades - nursing has been the #1 trusted professional for 22 years running - but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the U.S. honored these integral healthcare professionals with their own day of recognition. National Nurses Day is the first day of National Nurses Week, which takes place from May 6-12 each year and concludes on International Nurses Day, the birthday of Florence Nightingale.

  • In 1953, an employee of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Dorothy Sutherland, sent a proposal to President Dwight Eisenhower to proclaim a nurses day in October.

  • Eisenhower never made the proclamation, but the first National Nurses Week was still observed from October 11-16, 1954, marking the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea.

  • That same year, Frances P. Bolton, a member of the House of Representatives from Ohio, sponsored a bill for the creation of a nurses week.

  • That bill never passed.

  • About 20 years later, the House proposed a National Nurses Day.

  • President Richard Nixon did not accept it initially, though later in his term he proclaimed the creation of National Nurses Week.

  • The first state to recognize May 6 as Nurses Day was New Jersey in 1978.

  • A few years later, with the backing of nursing organizations, New Mexico Representative Manuel Lujan, Jr. put forth a resolution to celebrate May 6 as National Recognition Day for Nurses.

  • And so, in 1982, President Ronald Reagan made the proclamation confirming the resolution and May 6 was cemented as National Nurses Day (finally!).

  • In 1990, the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6-12 as Nurses Week.

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