National Nurses Day, also called National RN Recognition Day, is May 6. It is the first day of National Nurses Week, which lasts through May 12, Florence Nightingale's birthday. Typically, celebrations include dinners, proclamations, seminars and events that focus on the vital work done by nurses.
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During the festivities, nurses often receive flowers and gifts from friends and family members, doctors and administrators, and even patients.
Through her work with wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s, nurse Florence Nightingale made the British Army improve conditions in its hospitals. Her attention to sanitation and nutrition saved many lives and became the basis of modern nursing.
In 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare called for a "Nurse Day" in October of the following year. In 1954, a weeklong observance marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's service in the Crimean War.
President Nixon proclaimed "National Nurse Week" in 1974. In 1981, a group of New Mexico nurses started a drive to declare May 6 "National Recognition Day for Nurses." Congress approved in 1982. Soon the celebration expanded to a week.
National Student Nurses Day is May 8 and National School Nurse Day is on the Wednesday within National Nurses Week.
Since 1965, May 12 has been International Nurses Day.
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