Nursing is a vital profession. Doctors diagnose and order treatments, but nurses do the brunt of caring for and serving the sick.

To honor the men and women who devote their careers to nursing, National Nurses Day is celebrated in the United States on May 6th each year.

May 6th also marks the start of Nurses Week, which lasts through May 12th. Uncoincidentally, May 12th also marks the birthday of the founder of nursing as we know it today, Florence Nightingale.

Nurses Week was first celebrated in 1954 during the month of October, which marked the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s famous field nursing during the Crimean War.

Florence Nightingale, the Pioneer of Modern Nursing

Florence Nightingale was a 19th-century English nurse. She was widely recognized as a heroine for her contributions to healthcare reform and the nursing profession, and is one of the most famous nurses in history.

She studied nursing in Germany in 1850 before returning to England to work in hospitals, where she quickly proved her competence. In particular, she improved hygiene practices during a cholera epidemic that helped prevent a significant number of deaths.

When the Crimean War broke out between the Russian Empire and British forces, injured soldiers in the tens of thousands were admitted to military hospitals with appalling conditions.

Nightingale was tasked by the Secretary of War to travel to the Crimea with a team of nurses to improve the situation. Under her direction, the death rate in her hospital decreased by two-thirds.

She returned to England and eventually set up the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She also wrote influential reports that fundamentally changed healthcare in England.

How Are Nurses Honored on Nurses Day?

Nurses Day is always a holiday where hospitals and other health centers recognize and appreciate their staff nurses.

There may be banquets or other formal celebrations, or nurses may receive gifts from their employers, doctors, patients, or friends and family.

There may also be nursing seminars to remind nurses of their professional core values, as well as informational fairs or sessions to encourage students to join this career path.

5 Ways to Celebrate Nurses Week

Looking for ideas to observe this national holiday? Here are some ideas.

1. Join an Official Event

For National Nurses Week, the American Nurses Association (ANA) holds official events every year.

For instance, in 2017 nurses were invited to participate in #fitnursefriday, which emphasized how important it is for nurses to be physically fit in mind, body, and spirit in order to serve others.

This year, the theme of Nurses Week is “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence.”

2. Honor the Nurses in Your Life

If you personally know a registered nurse, whether they’re a family member, friend, or someone who cared for you when you were sick, Nurses Day is a great excuse to honor them.

Get them a small token of appreciation to show you care. Ideas include a thoughtful card, a bouquet of flowers, or a small gift. These small gestures will show the nurse in your life that you honor the work they do every day.

3. Attend a Health Fair

If you’re interested in nursing, make a plan to find out more about this career path by attending a health fair during Nursing Week. You’ll learn about the ins and outs of caring for the sick and better understand if you’re a good fit for this type of work.

You’ll also learn about what type of education and credentials you need to get a job in the nursing field.

4. Donate Money

There are plenty of causes related to nursing and healthcare that could benefit from your support. Use Nurses Day or Nurses Week as a good excuse to make a donation to the American Nursing Association, a local charity, or to a non-profit healthcare organization.

5. Support Nursing with Advocacy

In your community, you can support the nursing profession by advocating for nursing concerns and issues. For example, topics that matter to nurses include quality of care, equal and fair pay, and funding for health screenings in underserved areas.

Enjoy a Happy Nurses Week This May

Nurses deserve recognition for the tough job they do. Often, a patient’s well-being and recovery depend on the quality of care they receive from the nurses who attend them.

Luckily, there are tons of ways to celebrate Nurses Day and Nurse Appreciation Week in May.

From participating in ANA events to attending health fairs, to giving a token of appreciation to your favorite nurse, it’s easy to get involved and show you care.

Nurses are vital members of the healthcare system and should be honored for their dedication and service to their patients.