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May is National Nurses Month

Nurses perform some of the most difficult and heartbreaking tasks in the medical world. The healthcare field requires dedication and compassion in order to treat patients with the highest level of care. Nurses show up for their patients day after day, yet rarely receive any recognition for their efforts. From assisting with life-threatening ER crises to delivering babies and caring for the elderly in their final moments, nurses deserve more than just a thank you from the public – they deserve our respect.

This is why May is declared National Nurses Month. This year’s theme, “You Make A Difference,” honors their unique mission and celebrates their personal and professional accomplishments. Healthcare professionals and community leaders are encouraged to recognize and promote the vast contributions and positive impact of America’s nurses. Nurses make a difference by influencing and shaping health policy decisions that ensure all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage.


History of National Nurses Month

Once viewed as lowly doctors’ assistants, nurses are now recognized as highly specialized professionals with a wide range of skills. Today, becoming a nurse requires four years of study and extreme focus and dedication. This versatile career with dozens of specialties is a crucial link between patients and doctors.

The advent of modern nursing is credited to Florence Nightingale, who laid the foundation for professional nursing through her tireless work during and after the Crimean War. As a nursing manager on the frontlines, Nightingale introduced hygiene protocols and other measures that drastically reduced infections and deaths in battlefield hospitals.

Today, Nurses work in a wide range of specialties and settings, from school nurses who administer vaccines to highly specialized oncology nurses who assist in life-saving treatment decisions.

To acknowledge the contributions of nurses and call attention to their working conditions, the International Council of Nurses established May 12 as International Nurses Day in 1974. The celebration was extended to a week a few years later, and National Nurses Week was officially born in 1994. Sponsored and promoted by the American Nurses Association, the week-long event highlights the crucial contributions that nurses make to the community.

In the U.K., nurses celebrate with an annual ritual based on Florence Nightingale’s nighttime visits to injured soldiers, which earned her the nickname “Lady with the Lamp.” On May 12, a ceremonial lamp is passed along a line of nurses from the Nurses’ Chapel at Westminster Abbey to the abbey’s High Altar, symbolizing the passage of knowledge.




Why is Nurses Month replacing Nurses Week?

The American Nurses Association (ANA) declared May 6th to May 12th as the permanent week to celebrate nurses in 1993. Nearly 30 years later, at 4.3 million strong, nurses are the largest group of health care professionals and according to an annual Gallup poll, the most honest and ethical profession by the American public for 20 consecutive years. Clearly, a week is not enough.  The expansion to Nurses Month is intended to allow for greater engagement, participation, and recognition of nurses by many stakeholders.

A month-long celebration of nurses is a meaningful way to increase the understanding of the value of nursing by raising the visibility of the profession and the critical work nurses do. By elevating the profession, ANA hopes to spur greater investment in the support and increased capacity of the nursing workforce.


What is the overall theme/tagline for Nurses Month this year?

For Nurses Month, the ANA selected an evergreen theme that reflects gratitude, as well as positivity toward our nursing community – “Nurses Make a Difference”.


Will there be weekly themes again this year and if so, what are they?

Yes. The ANA Enterprise will focus on a different theme each week during May. The goal is to inspire nurses to engage in activities that make a positive difference in their own health and well-being, professional development, and their own community. Here is the list for each weekly theme in Nurses Month with corresponding dates:

  • Week 1 – Self-care (May 1 – 7)
  • Week 2 – Recognition (May 8 – 14)
  • Week 3 – Professional Development (May 15 – 21)
  • Week 4 – Community Engagement (May 22 – 28)


By The Numbers

  • 300 A.D. – the earliest date of the first recorded mentions of nurses.
  • 4–5 – the number of miles nurses walk in every shift.
  • 50% – the percentage of nursing students among the total number of healthcare students.
  • #4 – the ranking of nurse practitioners on a list of ‘25 best jobs of 2019.’
  • 3 million – the number of nurses in the U.S. as of 2016.
  • 19 million – the number of nurses in the world. 
  • 41% – the percentage of registered nurses working in hospitals.
  • 10% – the percentage of male registered nurses in the total workforce.
  • 3.24 million – the anticipated increase in the number of registered nurses by 2022.
  • $35.24 – the median pay of a nurse per hour.

According to the State of the World’s Nursing 2020 report by the World Health Organization, the International Council of Nurses, and Nursing Now, we find nurses at the front and center of our fight against Covid-19. Nursing as a profession is extremely important in maintaining and protecting the health of the world’s population. According to the report, 59% of all healthcare professionals are nurses and the global workforce of nurses is currently around 28 million, of which 19.3 million are professional nurses, 6 million are associate professional nurses and the remainder not being classified (WHO, 2020). Although the global nursing shortage has declined from 6.6 million estimated in 2016 to around 6 million in 2018, the bottom line is that by 2030, there will be a need for 36 million nurses practicing across the globe to meet the needs of every individual on the planet.

The report recognizes the need for governments to invest in and address three areas in order to meet this growing need.

Nursing education – Today an estimated $27.2 billion (USD) is spent on nursing education; however, this spend is not equitable across all countries. There needs to be a massive acceleration of nursing education in the areas of faculty, infrastructure, technology and student resources to address the changing models of care.

Nursing jobs – At least 6 million new nursing jobs will need to be created by 2030, predominantly in areas where the shortage is projected to be worse, such as in low- and middle-income countries.

Nursing leadership – An investment in nursing leadership is needed to ensure nurses have a seat at the table where health policy and practice decisions are made.


Observing National Nurses Month

Always playing a vital role in hospitals, nursing staff are showered with love and appreciation on National Nurses Month. The most common tradition for expressing gratitude for registered nurses is throwing them a party – inclusive of all shifts. The celebration is hosted by the medical faculty and staff, with some even having fun decorations and nurse-themed treats.

Volunteers are also active, putting themselves in nurses’ shoes to truly appreciate their work. Nurses spend a lot of grueling hours at the hospital, so their stories and encounters are also brought into the spotlight and documented by social media bloggers and storytellers.

The hospital staff and patients generously give gifts and donations to nurses as a token of gratitude for all their hard work. On a larger level, management and leaders within the healthcare sector present nurses with awards and certificates as a symbol of recognition.



Filed Under: Events, Nurses, awareness, event