National Nurses Week

National Nurses Week, celebrated from May 6th to May 12th, honors the pivotal role nurses play in healthcare and community well-being. This year’s theme, 'Nurses Make the Difference,' highlights their dedication to compassion, care, and resilience across all healthcare settings. As the backbone of the healthcare system, nurses not only provide essential care but also champion preventive and holistic approaches to patient health. During this week, we recognize the crucial need for nurses to embrace self-care to sustain their well-being and continue their invaluable service.

May 10, 2024

From May 6th to May 12th, the entire nation unites to honor the exceptional contributions of nurses, those dedicated souls who form the backbone of our healthcare system. This week, we pause to recognize the tireless efforts, endless capabilities, and profound impact nurses make in the lives of patients and communities nationwide.

The American Nurses Association designated "Nurses Make the Difference," as this year’s theme to recognize the countless ways nurses go above and beyond, illuminating the path to healing and wellness. From comforting a frightened child to guiding families through difficult decisions, nurses embody the spirit of compassion and care in every healthcare setting. Together, let's recognize, celebrate, and thank the nurses who truly make a difference in our lives.

Brief History of National Nurses Week

1953: Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a "Nurse Day" in October of the following year. The proclamation was never made.

1954: A National Nurse Week was observed October 11-16 in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's work during the Crimean War.

Florence Nightingale is famous for revolutionizing the field of nursing and healthcare during the 19th century. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a British hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds.

1950s-1970s: Several bills were introduced to Congress, but none made it through the legislative process. 

1974: In January, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed that May 12 would be "International Nurse Day." (Florence Nightingale’s birthday) 

Specifically in the US, President Nixon issued a proclamation recognizing National Nurses week. 

1982: In February, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982 as "National Nurses Day" and President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming "National Recognition Day for Nurses" to be May 6, 1982.

1990: The ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6 - 12, 1991, as National Nurses Week.

Why Celebrate??

Celebrating National Nurses Week is not just about acknowledging the tireless dedication and selfless service of nurses; it's about recognizing the vital role they play in every aspect of healthcare delivery. Nurses are found in a myriad of departments, including Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Social Services. America boasts over 5 million registered nurses, and that number continues to climb steadily. Their work spans across diverse programs, touching the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community. From mental health services to homeless outreach programs, nurses are at the forefront, advocating for those in need and improving overall community well-being. Nurses consistently rank as the most trusted profession in the US, a testament to their unwavering commitment to high ethical standards and patient-centered care.

More Than Just a “Nurse”

Furthermore, nurses are not just caregivers; they are educators, advocates, and leaders in healthcare. Their holistic approach to patient care, encompassing medical, emotional, and preventive aspects, sets them apart as true champions of wellness. Whether providing bedside comfort, educating patients and families, or collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, nurses are the linchpin that holds the healthcare continuum together. In essence, National Nurses Week celebrates more than just a profession; it celebrates a legacy of compassion, resilience, and innovation. It's an opportunity to express gratitude for the countless lives touched and transformed by nurses' unwavering dedication.

The Bright Future of Nursing

As demand for nursing services continues to surge across all care settings, a promising horizon unfolds for the nursing profession. In today's healthcare landscape, success is measured not only in terms of treatment outcomes but also in the value delivered to patients. As healthcare systems increasingly prioritize home- and community-based care to enhance outcomes and reduce hospitalizations, nurses emerge as the vanguards of this transformative shift.

Moreover, as the nation grapples with the imperative of promoting health equity, nurses stand poised as catalysts for change. Their role as bridge builders and collaborators resonates deeply in efforts to engage communities and organizations in pursuit of well-being for all. While the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the resilience and adaptability of nurses, they also present an opportunity for profound transformation.

In the coming decade, nurses will confront a spectrum of challenges, from navigating the aftermath of the pandemic to dismantling systemic barriers that perpetuate inequities. Yet, amid these trials, lies the potential for monumental progress. By fostering empathy, understanding, and solidarity, nurses can help shape a more just and equitable future.

Self Care for Nurses

Nursing, deeply rooted in caring for others, often places the well-being of patients above that of the nurses themselves. The Nurses Pledge of Service reinforces the notion that patient care is paramount, sometimes causing nurses to perceive self-care as selfish or indulgent. This perception can exacerbate stress and burnout, potentially jeopardizing the quality of care delivered.

However, it's crucial for nurses to realize that self-care isn't a luxury—it's an essential component for sustaining themselves in their demanding roles. By prioritizing their own well-being, nurses can enhance their ability to serve patients effectively and stave off burnout. Implementing tailored self-care strategies enables nursing professionals to replenish their physical, emotional, and mental reserves, fostering resilience and ensuring longevity in their careers.

Signs of Burnout

Burnout can manifest in many different ways among nurses:

Condition Description
Anxiety Nurses may feel acute worry and have difficulty managing negative emotions.
Depression Prolonged periods of mood and energy decline.
Emotional Detachment Nurses may begin to feel like they “aren’t there” at work and are unable to be fully present.
Exhaustion Chronic fatigue — an inability to feel rested or rejuvenated.
Inability to Focus Struggle to pay attention to details at work or forget basic information.
Insomnia Being unable to fall or stay asleep.
Illness May show psychosomatic symptoms, including digestive issues, headaches, chest pain, and other illnesses.

Self Care Activities for Nurses

The pivotal role nurses play in assisting patients with medical issues and navigating through illness and injury is undeniable. However, this significant responsibility often comes with minimal support, leaving nurses to manage patient care on their own.The constant exposure to traumas and workplace frustrations, can significantly heighten the risk of burnout among nurses. This underscores the critical need for nurses to prioritize self-care as a means of safeguarding their well-being and resilience in the face of these challenges

Some self care activities include getting ample rest, traveling, engaging in creative expression, exercise, social connection, and meditation. All of these activities work to create a calmer sense of peace and positive affirmation to nurses. Self care is an ongoing practice, and one that could seem difficult. However, nurses should work towards integrating self care activities into daily life to ensure self compassion. 


National Nurses Week serves as a reminder of the invaluable contributions nurses make to our healthcare system and communities. From their unwavering dedication to their innovative approaches to patient care, nurses epitomize compassion, resilience, and excellence. As we celebrate their tireless efforts, we must also recognize the pressing need for self-care among nurses. Burnout poses a significant risk, underscoring the importance of prioritizing their own well-being. By embracing self-care practices and fostering a supportive environment, we can ensure that nurses continue to thrive in their vital roles, delivering exceptional care and shaping a brighter future for healthcare. So, let's extend our deepest gratitude to nurses everywhere, not just during this special week, but every day of the year. 


How did National Nurses Week originate?

National Nurses Week originated in 1954, in recognition of Florence Nightingale's work during the Crimean War. It has since evolved into an annual celebration observed from May 6th to May 12th.

What are some signs of burnout among nurses?

Signs of burnout among nurses can include anxiety, depression, emotional detachment, chronic fatigue, difficulty focusing, insomnia, and psychosomatic symptoms such as digestive issues or headaches.

What self-care activities are recommended for nurses?

Self-care activities recommended for nurses include getting ample rest, traveling, engaging in creative expression, exercise, social connection, and meditation. These practices help replenish physical, emotional, and mental reserves and foster resilience.

How can we support nurses beyond National Nurses Week?

Supporting nurses goes beyond just this week. It involves fostering a supportive work environment, advocating for adequate resources and staffing levels, promoting self-care practices, and recognizing the value of their contributions year-round.

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