Title : Why We Celebrate Nurses Day (History of International Nurses Day)


International Nurses Day (IND) is an international day celebrated around the world on 12 May (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth) of each year, to mark the contributions nurses make to society.

Who is Florence Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale,  (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing.

Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a highly favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of "The Lady with the Lamp" making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

While recent commentators have asserted Nightingale's achievements in the Crimean War were exaggerated by the media at the time, critics agree on the decisive importance of her follow-up achievements in professionalising nursing roles for women. In 1860, Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King's College London. In recognition of her pioneering work in nursing, the Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses, and the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, were named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday. Her social reforms include improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws that were over-harsh to women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.

Nightingale was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with spreading medical knowledge. Some of her tracts were written in simple English so that they could easily be understood by those with poor literary skills. She was also a pioneer in the use of infographics, effectively using graphical presentations of statistical data. Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously.



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, the founder of modern nursing. Each year, ICN prepares and distributes the International Nurses' Day Kit.] The kit contains educational and public information materials, for use by nurses everywhere.

As of 1998, 8 May was designated as annual National Student Nurses' Day.



ICN themes for International Nurses Day:

·        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

·        2016 – Nurses: A Force for Change: Improving Health Systems' Resilience

·        2017 - Nurses: A voice to lead - Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

·        2018 – Nurses: A voice to lead – Health is a Human Right

Celebrations Internationally


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. Each year nurses in Chinese hospitals recite the Florence Nightingale Pledge.


Since 2012, Nurse Jobs Ireland (an Irish nurse recruitment agency) launch a weeklong pro-bono campaign to celebrate nurses on the 6–12 May every year. This week long celebration uses digital platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote the great work nurses do using the hashtag #CelebrateNurses. The public leave their positive comments and thanks on the Celebrate Nurses website where they are collated into an ebook which is shared in medical facilities throughout Ireland.

United Kingdom

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.

USA & Canadian Celebrations (National Nursing Week)

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 12 May, 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 11–16 October 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 6 May 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.  The National Association of School Nurses, however, claims that National School Nurse Day has been recognized since 1972.


Singapore celebrates Nurses Day on 1 August. Back in the 1800s, a thriving Singapore found itself in need of providing better healthcare and medical services to a growing population. While there were several hospitals, there was a lack of nurses to support the doctors. French nuns from the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus were trained to become nurses to fulfil this need, as they were seen as the only educated European women in Singapore who could undertake this challenge. 1 August 1885 marks the beginning of the development of nursing in Singapore when these nuns began their nursing duties in the General Hospital at the Sepoy Lines in the Outram area. 



President of India present the National Florence Nightingale Awards to 35 nursing professionals on International Nurses Day. 

The Health Ministry had instituted the awards in 1973 as a mark of recognition for the meritorious services of nurses.