Celebrating Nurse Day and Nurse Week


A nurse holding an Owala bottle for Nurse Day and Nurse Week

Let’s face it—nursing is no easy task, even in the best of times. And since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the job of nurses worldwide has become even more stressful and demanding.

How great would it be if we took the time to thank and honor nurses for their hard work?

Well get ready, because there are a whole host of holidays that celebrate nurses, including National Nurse Week, International Nurse Week, and a number of different days dedicated to nurses.

Why We Honor Nurses

It takes a certain type of person to become a nurse. Nurses are known for being caring, compassionate, selfless people with a passion for helping others. They typically work long hours and, despite all precautions, can sometimes be at risk of contracting infectious diseases from on-the-job exposure.

Just imagine how it has felt to be a nurse over the past few years.

Did you know that there are nearly 3.1 million nurses in the United States alone? Unfortunately, some of them are considering career changes. It’s no wonder—they feel underappreciated and burned out after so much sacrifice during the pandemic. 

It’s high time to give your favorite nurses a huge HURRAH of appreciation.

We’re going to share some fun and meaningful ways to thank the nurses you know—and even those you don’t. But first, let’s pause for a little history lesson to learn the background of the Nurse Week and Nurse Day holidays.

The History of Nurse Week and Nurse Day

Nurse Day dates back to the 1950s. Dorothy Sutherland was an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. She wrote a letter to President Eisenhower in 1953 asking him to proclaim Nurse Day as a national holiday. 

Eisenhower declined to make a proclamation, but private organizations latched onto the idea.

In 1954, several hospitals observed a National Nurses Week from October 11-16 to commemorate the centenary of Florence Nightingale's service in the Crimean War (Nightingale is widely known as the founder of modern nursing).

The concept of honoring nurses gained popularity, and in 1965 the International Council of Nurses (ICN) decided to sponsor International Nurse Day. In 1974, the ICN set the formal date as May 12—the anniversary of Nightingale’s birth.

Also in 1974, President Nixon issued a presidential proclamation proclaiming National Nurse Week in the United States. Over the next few years, various states instituted their own celebrations of nurses.

In 1982, several developments pushed these celebrations forward. The American Nursing Association (ANA) formally acknowledged May 6 as National Nurses Day. The action affirmed a joint resolution of the United States Congress designating May 6 as National Recognition Day for Nurses. And finally, President Reagan signed a proclamation making it official.

Since 1994, the ANA expanded on National Nurses Day to make May 6-12 National Nurses Week. As of 1998, to celebrate those aspiring to become nurses, May 8 was designated as National Student Nurses Day. And since 2003, we’ve recognized National School Nurse Day on the Wednesday within National Nurses Week.

There are other designated holidays to celebrate nurses outside of Nurse Week, as well. National IV Nurse Day is January 25, Certified Nurses Day is March 19, and Emergency Nurses are honored on October 12.

Nurse Day Theme

Each year, the ICN inspires the global community with a theme for International Nurse Day. The 2022 theme is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health. According to the ICN, this theme brings into focus the need to “protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world.”

We can’t think of a more deserving group than nurses. It’s important always—but now, more than ever—to show these dedicated and often underappreciated individuals just how much their tireless work means to us all.

How to Celebrate Nurses

Ready to rock out in support of nurses? You can help honor and celebrate nurses in a number of different ways. Here are some ideas we hope you’ll try:

  • Your local hospital may be planning a party or event to celebrate its nurses. Consider attending or making a donation to the hospital to support the event. 
  • Focus on the theme of International Nurse Day 2022 by writing to your local congressperson. Draw attention to how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nurses and stress the fact that nurses need help from politicians to improve health care resources.
  • Write letters to nurses. If a nurse has helped care for you or someone you love, take the time to update them on how their kindness and care have helped. Thank nurses for their service and let them know how they’ve impacted your life.
  • Give you favorite nurse a gift. Consider something that will help make their job more comfortable. An insulated water bottle is an ideal option—that way your nurse can stay healthily hydrated with cool, refreshing fluids throughout their long shifts. Make sure the bottle is easy to carry, so they can keep it by their side, no matter where their work takes them. And don't just buy any water bottle. Owala gets behind nurses in a big way by offering a 15% discount for nurses all year ‘round.
  • Another great gift for the nurse in your life is a day filled with pampering and relaxation. Nurses spend all their working hours caring for others, so how about encouraging them to take a self-care break with the gift of a massage or spa day?
  • Deliver healthy, homemade treats to nurses near you. Imagine that you’re in the last few hours of a taxing overnight shift, and someone shows up with individual Bell jars filled with Greek yogurt, homemade granola, and fresh fruit for the nursing staff. Or maybe it’s green smoothies, or homemade lemonade and fresh bagels, or even something as simple as decent coffee (because surely the hospital vending machine serves a weak, nasty sludge). Nurses deserve this kind of thoughtfulness, for sure.
  • Ask the nurses near you what they need most to make their jobs easier and improve conditions in their care facility. Maybe it’s a donation of toys to a children’s ward, or perhaps a direct financial donation to a hospital or clinic. Ask if you can volunteer your time to help offset the burden of care that nurses bear. 

Remember, even if you don’t have money to donate or purchase gifts for nurses, you can give freely from your heart. Nurses are oftentimes the unsung heroes in hospitals, care facilities, schools, and home health care, going well above and beyond to ensure a patient’s health, happiness, and comfort. So be sure to show nurses your love and appreciation in turn by thanking them—on Nurse Day, Nurses Week, and every chance you get.