International Nurses Day

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International Nurses Day
The Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg
Also called ICN
Observed by UN Members
Begins 1965
Date 12 May
Next time 12 May 2016 (2016-05-12)
Frequency annual

International Nurses Day (IND) is celebrated around the world on 12 May of each year, to mark the contributions nurses make to society.[1]


The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has celebrated this day since 1965.

In 1953 Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, proposed that President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaim a "Nurses' Day"; he did not approve it.

In January 1974, 12 May was chosen to celebrate the day as it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered the founder of modern nursing.[citation needed] Each year, ICN prepares and distributes the International Nurses' Day Kit.[citation needed] The kit contains educational and public information materials, for use by nurses everywhere.

In 1999, the British public sector union UNISON voted to ask the ICN to transfer this day to another date, saying Nightingale does not represent modern nursing.[citation needed]

As of 1998, 8 May was designated as annual National Student Nurses' Day. As of 2003, the Wednesday within National Nurses Week, between 6 and 12 May, is National School Nurse Day.[citation needed]


ICN themes for International Nurses Day:[2]

  • 1988 – Safe Motherhood
  • 1989 – School Health
  • 1990 – Nurses and Environment
  • 1991 – Mental Health – Nurses in Action
  • 1992 – Healthy Aging
  • 1993 – Quality, costs and Nursing
  • 1994 – Healthy Families for Healthy Nation
  • 1995 – Women's Health: Nurses Pave the Way
  • 1996 – Better Health through Nursing Research
  • 1997 – Healthy Young People = A Brighter Future
  • 1998 – Partnership for Community Health
  • 1999 – Celebrating Nursing's Past, claiming the future
  • 2000 – Nurses – Always there for you
  • 2001 – Nurses, Always There for You: United Against Violence
  • 2002 – Nurses Always There for You: Caring for Families
  • 2003 – Nurses: Fighting AIDS stigma, working for all
  • 2004 – Nurses: Working with the Poor; Against Poverty
  • 2005 – Nurses for Patients' Safety: Targeting counterfeit medicines and substandard medication
  • 2006 – Safe staffing saves lives
  • 2007 – Positive practice environments: Quality workplaces = quality patient care
  • 2008 – Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Primary Health Care and social care
  • 2009 – Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Care Innovations
  • 2010 – Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Chronic Care
  • 2011 – Closing The Gap: Increasing Access and Equity
  • 2012 – Closing The Gap: From Evidence to Action
  • 2013 – Closing The Gap: Millennium Development Goals
  • 2014 – Nurses: A Force for Change – A vital resource for health
  • 2015 - Nurses: A Force for Change: Care Effective, Cost Effective[3]
  • 2016 - Nurses: A Force for Change: Improving Health Systems' Resilience[4]

Celebrations Internationally[edit]


The Australian Nurse of the Year is announced at a ceremony at one of the state's capital cities. Additionally, in each of the Australian states and territories, various nursing ceremonies are conducted during the week.


In 2007, 5000 nurses gathered in Yichun, East China's Jiangxi Province.[5] Each year nurses in Chinese hospitals recite the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

United Kingdom[edit]

Each year a service is held in Westminster Abbey in London. During the Service, a symbolic lamp is taken from the Nurses' Chapel in the Abbey and handed from one nurse to another, thence to the Dean, who places it on the High Altar. This signifies the passing of knowledge from one nurse to another. At St Margaret's Church at East Wellow in Hampshire, where Florence Nightingale is buried, a service is also held on the Sunday after her birthday.[6]

USA & Canadian Celebrations (National Nursing Week)[edit]

The U.S. celebrates National Nursing Week each year from 6 May to 12 May (the birthday of Florence Nightingale). Canada celebrates National Nursing Week each year during the week that includes May 12, which is Florence Nightingale's birthday. The Canadian Minister of Health instituted National Nursing Week in Canada in 1985.

In the U.S., National Nurses Week was first observed from October 11–16, 1954 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's mission to Crimea. President Nixon later proclaimed a "National Nurse Week" in 1974. In 1982, President Reagan signed a proposal officially designating May 6 as "National Recognition Day for Nurses," now known as National Nurses Day or National RN Recognition Day. In 1990, the American Nurses Association (ANA) expanded the holiday into the current National Nurses Week celebrated from 6 May to 12 May.

In 1997, at the request of the National Student Nurses Association, the ANA designated 8 May as National Student Nurses Day. In 2003, the ANA designated the Wednesday within National Nurses Week as National School Nurse Day. [7][8] The National Association of School Nurses, however, claims that National School Nurse Day has been recognized since 1972.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "International Nurses Day". International Council of Nurses. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "International Nurses Day". International Council of Nurses. Retrieved 2 December 2006. 
  3. ^ "2015 - Nurses: A Force for Change: Care Effective, Cost Effective". Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  4. ^ "2016 - Nurses: A Force for Change: Improving health systems' resilience". Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  5. ^ "International Nurses Day --". Retrieved 2016-02-09.  line feed character in |title= at position 25 (help)
  6. ^ "Commemoration Service". Florence Nightingale Foungdation. Archived from the original on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 3 December 2006. 
  7. ^ "National Nurses Day". Calendar Updates, LLC. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "National Nurses Week History". American Nurses Association. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "National School Nurse Day". National Association of School Nurses. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 

External links[edit]