What Day is Nurses Day?

When is Nurses Day? 

National Nurses Day is internationally celebrated, every year, on May 12th.

What Other Days Do We Celebrate Nurses?

  • The Month of May: In the United States, the American Nurses Association (ANA) hosts Nurses Month for the entire month of May. Each week has a different focus area for raising awareness and celebration.
  • May 6 – 12: National Nurses Week (National School Nurse Day is celebrated on the Wednesday of this week)
  • May 8: National Student Nurses Day

Why Do We Celebrate Nurses Day?

Nurses Day is celebrated every year to acknowledge the contribution certified nurses make to our society and the way their care impacts us all. They provide care that is invaluable to the entire healthcare system and deserve our recognition, as they are often overlooked. We celebrate the day as a combination of nursing history and certified nurses today.

The History

The date for International Nurses Day was officially chosen to be May 12th in 1974 by the Internation Council of Nurses (ICN), though the ICN had been celebrating it unofficially since 1965. Later, in 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation for “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be held on May 6. That was later expanded to a week-long celebration (Nurses Week) from May 6-12 and is still celebrated today. 

Florence Nightingale 

National Nurses Day was chosen to be May 12th was chosen to honor and give recognition to Florence Nightingale, a British nurse who is considered to be the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale was born on May 12th, 1820 in Florence, Italy (named after her birthplace), but later moved to England to be raised by her parents alongside her older sister.

During the Crimean War Nightingale was sent with a team of other nurses to care for the wounded soldiers. The state of the men’s conditions, as well as the physical environment they were in, was abysmal, and the mortality rates confirmed it. Florence was a crucial part in taking the overcrowded and unsanitary spaces and transforming them into something clean and well-organized. She worked tirelessly to save the soldiers and received the name “The Lady with the Lamp” from the many rounds she made at night. She helped to identify the need for sanitary conditions when preventing and treating infections.  Because of her work the mortality rates of the soldiers greatly improved. Her knowledge, strength, dedication, and compassion changed the lives of patients long after she died in August 1910. Florence Nightingale pioneered lasting changes to healthcare and helped shape the profession of modern nursing.

Importance of Nursing Today

Certified nurses are a crucial piece of healthcare in our society. Often they are the first to interact with patients and their families, and they provide comfort and care to patients throughout their time receiving medical care. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it became clear to everyone how vital these essential workers were to our survival. Nurses Day is a way to acknowledge all of their hard work and show appreciation for their dedication to a professional career of service and quality care. 

How Can I Celebrate Nurses Day?

There are countless ways to celebrate Nurses Day. The most important piece in choosing how to celebrate is a genuine appreciation for their care. Whether it is something physical or not, a heartfelt gesture is always appreciated. Here are 5 ideas of how you can celebrate Nurses Day:

  1. Throw a Party

A party is a great way to celebrate any national holiday or day of recognition, and Nurses Day is no different. Depending on which nurses you are celebrating (school nurse, doctor’s office, emergency room, etc.), consider hosting a party that applies to their efforts and interests. Ideas include catering lunch, a nice dinner outside of work, a “relaxation” event with free 15-minute massages, or even an entertaining awards ceremony.

  1. Ecard with Kudoboard

Handwritten notes are a classic and treasured way to show appreciation to the nurses in your life, and the popularity of ecards for healthcare makes that gesture even easier. Kudoboard makes it easy to send a group e-card full of messages, photos, gifs, jokes, and more!  You can even collect funds to give a gift card to the recipient. 

  1. Make it a Month-Long Celebration

Why stop at just one day of appreciation? The American Nurses Association celebrates Nurses Month every year during the month of May. Each week has a different theme (self-care, recognition, professional development, and community engagement) with information already listed on their website for ideas on how to participate. You can even click here to download the free 2023 National Nurses Month Toolkit giving you access to articles, templates, banners, posters, and more!

  1. Make it Political

Perhaps one of the most impactful ways you can appreciate the nurses in your life is by prioritizing their rights, health, well-being, and issues impacting their patients through our legislature. RNAction, the ANA’s advocacy program, keeps the public up to date on issues impacting certified nurses and all who are in their care. 

  1. When in Doubt, Ask

If you are unsure what type of celebration will be most appreciated, ask! You might find that a cup, tote bag, or cute, shiny gift is the last thing your nurses want. Many nurses, when asked, said what they really wanted was access to professional training and education, or to have more respect and support from their management. Perhaps, instead of spending money on things that will just end up lost or thrown away, employers might opt to use the funds for a professional conference or guest speaker to come, or even better management training. 


Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, don’t let Nurses Day pass by unnoticed! These essential workers in our healthcare system deserve to see our heartfelt appreciation, and Nurses Day is the perfect chance to make that happen.

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