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National Nurses Week is recognized from May 6 to May 12. Photo: Getty Images
National Nurses Week is recognized from May 6 to May 12. Photo: Getty Images

Marking the start of National Nurses Week 2021

National Nurses Week is annual celebration of the significant contributions nurses have on society and takes place in May. 

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May 6 marks the date of National Nurses Day, an annual celebration aimed to raise awareness of the important role that nurses play in society.

It also marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, which runs annually between May 6 to May 12. The date May 12 coincides with Florence Nightingale’s birthday, the nurse, social reformer and statistician who is recognized as a pioneer and the founder of modern nursing. 

National Nurses Week was first observed from Oct. 11 to 16, 1954. The year of the first observation of National Nurses Week marked the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s mission to Crimea, which saw her and a team of volunteer nurses care for the British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. 

In the years and decades that proceeded, many actions were taken to establish an official national annual recognition for the nursing profession. 

In January 1974, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) proclaimed May 12 as “International Nurse Day.” The following month, then-President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation for the White House to designate a week as National Nurse Week. 

In 1981, the American Nurses Association — which has supported and promoted the nursing profession since 1896 — along with various nursing organizations, rallied to support a resolution initiated by nurses in New Mexico to have May 6, 1982, as the “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” 

On March 25, 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation designating May 6 as the “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”

Eight years later in 1990, the ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long annual celebration. 

It wasn’t until 1993 that the dates May 6 through May 12 were set as the permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week moving forward. 

Since then, the annual celebration of nurses nationally has grown. As of 1998, the ANA recognizes May 8 as “National Student Nurses Day,” and as of 2003, "National School Nurse Day" has been celebrated on the Wednesday during National Nurses Week each year. 

During the age of the worst pandemic the world has seen in more than a century, the impact and significance of nurses have been put at the forefront and is more critical than ever.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and expanded the event into a month-long celebration. The expansion coincided with the declaration of 2020 as the Year of the Nurse, as well as the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

The ANA and WHO extended the "Year of the Nurse" into 2021 to continue recognition the nurses who continue to serve on the front lines of the pandemic. 

For the past three years, AL DÍA has taken on the responsibility of celebrating and recognizing nurses who are enriching diversity at the top health organizations in the region with the annual AL DÍA Top Nurses Forum & Awards event.

Taking place virtually this year, the event will celebrate the esteemed men and women in the healthcare profession who have served the community, especially during the pandemic. 

At the event, a selection of nominees, nominated by their peers and selected by the event's advisory board, will be honored as Top Nurses, and a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient will be chosen, as well.

Nominations for the honorees are still being accepted, and will continue until May 9 at 11:59 p.m.

The 2021 AL DÍA Top Nurses event will take place on Wednesday, May 26 starting at 5:30 p.m. Ticket and registration information can be found here.

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