National Nurses Day – History and Ideas for Celebrating in 2022

National Nurses Week kicks off with National Nurses Day tomorrow, Friday May 6th, 2022! With celebrations on the horizon, we figured it would be a good idea to share some of the holiday’s history, along with some ideas to help you celebrate the nurses in your life. So here we go!


At the end of the 19th century, “The Lady With the Lamp” — or as she is more widely known, Florence Nightingale — founded modern nursing. Thanks to her strict use of hand-washing and hygiene practices while caring for wounded soldiers in the Crimean War, Nightingale and her helpers reduced the death rate from 42% to 2% — ushering in nursing as we know it today. On May 6, we recognize the important role nurses play in our lives by celebrating National Nurses Day.


The heart of the healthcare sector is celebrated on National Nurses Day on May 6. Often the first and last person a patient sees during a hospital visit, nurses are truly the rockstars!


National Nurses Day is the first day of National Nursing Week, which concludes on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Yet the week was first observed in the US in October 1954 to mark the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s pioneering work in Crimea.

In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower asking him to proclaim a “Nurse Day” in October of the following year to coincide with the anniversary. Although the President didn’t act, the celebration was observed thanks to a bill sponsored by Representative Frances P. Bolton, and the following year a new bill was introduced to Congress lobbying for official recognition of the celebration.

Twenty years later, in February of 1974, President Nixon proclaimed a National Nurse Week to be celebrated annually in May. Over the next eight years, various nursing organizations including the American Nurses Association (ANA) rallied to support calls for a “National Recognition Day for Nurses” on May 6, which was eventually proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

With over 3 million working nurses in the US today, nurses make up the highest percentage of the US healthcare workforce. Although you might not imagine it, nurses are more likely to sustain a back injury on a shift than construction workers, and they walk an average of 5 kilometers per shift, as caring for others’ health is such an active job!

If you think nurses are only found in hospitals, then think again! Almost half of all nurses practice elsewhere, such as in a nursing home or in-home visits. They work across communities to keep people worldwide happy and healthy, and National Nurses Day is the perfect opportunity to show your appreciation for their important work!


What is National Nurse Week?

National Nurses Week celebrates and acknowledges nurses and the hard work they put in to making their patients feel comfortable.

What week is National Nurses Week?

Every year, National Nurses Week begins on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

What does a nurse do?

Nurses are licensed healthcare professionals who perform a vast spectrum of tasks. They not only assist doctors during treatments and surgeries, but also perform vital tests, make care decisions, and educate patients about their health.


Thank a nurse with a fresh meal or massage

Nurses work long hours with few breaks and deserve a treat. Send a nurse in your life a surprise meal or spa session to show your appreciation!

Donate blood

If you are eligible, donating blood is an easy way to help ensure our healthcare system has the resources it needs to save lives.

Write a thank-you note to the nurses you know

Write a heartfelt thank you note to a nurse (or several.) Let them know you see and appreciate their efforts.


1) Nursing used to be all-male

In the Middle Ages, all-male religious orders cared for the sick and dying. Women began playing a larger role in religious hospitals in the 1600s.

2) Nurses walk a lot

On average, a nurse walks 4 to 5 miles on every 12-hour shift. That’s a 5k every day!

3) People trust nurses

Nursing is consistently rated as one of the most trusted professions in public polls.

4) Half of foreign nurses are Filipino

Nurses from the Philippines make up 50% of all foreign nurses in the U.S.

5) Only 60% of nurses work in hospitals

Almost half of nurses work in other locations including schools, hospice facilities, and private homes.


Nurses are essential

Nurses perform some of the most important daily tasks in healthcare, and National Nurses Week recognizes their tireless and often thankless work.

Nurses work hard

Most nurses work 12-hour shifts with few breaks, often taking on extra work when the need arises. Since healthcare is a 24/7/365 operation, nurses often find themselves working through holidays and important family events.

Nurses know patients better than anyone

Because they spend the most time with a patient, nurses have a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s history, condition, and treatment.

National Nurses Day kicks off a week of celebration of one of the most important roles in modern society, and we hope the history and ideas we shared have been worth the read. Be sure to thank the nurses who have made an impact in your life! And if you are a nurse yourself, don’t hesitate to treat yo’ self! We are so thankful for everything that you do.


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