What is National Nurses Week?

National Nurses Week 2023 is finally here

It’s National Nurses Week 2023! It’s an exciting time of celebration, honor and appreciation for the health care heroes that give their all each and every day for their patients and community.

But to understand what precisely National Nurses Week is all about, we will have to travel back to 1954.

In 1954, according to the American Nurses Association, National Nurse Week was observed to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea. In 1854, Nightingale brought a team of 38 volunteer nurses to care for British soldiers fighting in the war.

“Nightingale’s work brought the field of public health to national attention,” the National Library of Medicine reported. “She was one of the first in Europe to grasp the principles of the new science of statistics and to apply them to military — and later civilian — hospitals. In 1907, she was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. Nightingale’s image has often been sentimentalized as the epitome of femininity, but she is especially remarkable for her intelligence, determination, and amazing capacity for work.”

By 1974, Nightingale’s birthday would also become a day of celebration for nurses — as proclaimed “International Nurse Day” by the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Within the same year, President Richard Nixon proclaimed an entire week would be designated by the White House as National Nurse Week.

The American Nurses Association, and a number of other nursing organizations, spent the following 17 years popularizing the celebration and expanding upon it, ultimately declaring National Nurses Week as an annual May 6 through May 12 celebration in 1991.

Now, we celebrate National Nurses Week to honor our nation’s health care heroes, which are currently facing high rates of burnout, a staffing crisis and a lack of support in the workplace.

“Nurses Week is our time to shine,” Nurse.org reported. “Let’s lift each other up and recognize the good in what we do every day. It’s easy to dwell on everything that needs to be changed, but for one week, I challenge you to look for the good. Recognize your nurse besties, mentors, and the nurses who make a difference in your day.”