What And When Is National Nurses Day 2021?


Has a nurse or nurse practitioner ever gone above and beyond for you? You may feel compelled to show your gratitude to these selfless men and women. Both National Nurse Practitioner Week and National Nurses Day are an opportunity to celebrate these deserving individuals — or if you’re part of a nursing team, you can celebrate each other. 

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Here’s our guide to the history of National Nurses Day and ideas for how to observe it. 

When is National Nurses Day?

National Nurses Day, also known as National RN Recognition Day, is always celebrated on May 6. National Nurses Day kicks off National Nurses Week, which runs until May 12. May 12 is also International Nurses Day. May 8 is National Student Nurses Day and National School Nurses Day.

Here are the days of the week for National Nurses Day for the next few years:

  • 2021: Thursday, May 6
  • 2022: Friday, May 6
  • 2023: Saturday, May 6
  • 2024: Monday, May 6
  • 2025: Tuesday, May 6
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What is National Nurses Day?

National Nurses Day recognizes nurses in the U.S. and starts National Nurses Week. Celebrating National Nurses Day is a great way to show a nurse or team of nurses in your life how much you appreciate them.

How it all got started

May 12 is significant because it’s the birthdate of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Nightingale’s adherence to strict hand-washing and hygiene practices during the Crimean War meant that the death rate of wounded soldiers fell from 42 percent to 2 percent.

This protocol may seem minor compared to other advances in medicine. However, better hygiene awareness shaped healthcare as we know it. 

How to participate or celebrate

Participating or celebrating in National Nurses Day may look different depending on who you are. The goal should be the same — thank the nurses in your area for all they do. Saying “thank you” doesn’t have to be elaborate or cost a fortune, either.

It just requires some care and effort. You can read our guide on Nurses Week ideas for more inspiration.

Ideas on How to Celebrate National Nurses Day

Here are some ideas for how to celebrate National Nurses Day, whether you’re a nurse yourself or a donor. You may also consider putting together gifts for doctors at another point in time or purchasing healthcare books that offer insight and support.  

Have an indoor/outdoor field day  

How much freedom you have to plan activities will likely depend on your specific unit and your current volume of patients (as well as their specific care needs). However, an indoor or outdoor field day is a great way for nurses, other care members, and patients to all blow off steam together.

Since National Nurses Day happens in early May, it’s likely any temperature anywhere will be mild and perfect for outdoor activities. Some ideas for specific activities or stations include:

  • Indoor: Lawn games inside
  • Indoor: Board games or card games
  • Indoor: Cupcake decorating or snack stations
  • Outdoor: Lawn games or friendly sports games
  • Outdoor: Paper lantern releases or kite flying
  • Outdoor: Chalk drawing or other outdoor art

Involve patients in an arts and crafts activity

Arts and crafts are a great way to bring your team and your patients together. You can create a large poster or painting to hang in the hall for the whole week. Or create individual pieces of art to hang in various stations or care rooms.

The theme can involve flowers, a local sports team, favorite foods, or even caricatures of your team members and staff. 

Volunteer with AANA 

You can lend further support to a national network of nurses by volunteering with the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. All experience levels are welcome, according to the AANA’s site, and there are a variety of causes and committees you can join.

Send flowers or treats to nurses

Flowers and food are always a major home run. You don’t have to send a massive bouquet to each nurse on staff. But picking the right flowers to send, just like sending flowers to a funeral, can be a little tricky. Consider small bouquets or send an entire large bouquet to the nurses’ station so everyone can enjoy them. Just be sure to check the policies for sending flowers in their particular area.

You might prefer sending food like baked goods, coffee assortments, or gift cards for a catered lunch. No matter what you choose to do, it’ll be appreciated. For more ideas, consider some of these thoughtful gifts for nurses or gifts for a nursing instructor.

Donate toys, books, or supplies

Take a peek through your house — you may find plenty of items that patients or even nurses in your area can use. One of the best uses for old, gently loved toys is to donate them to clinics or hospitals.

You may also consider purchasing caregiver books for nurses to read during downtime or when they’re monitoring patients. Hospitals or clinics in your area offer specific lists of items they could use or you can donate money.

Put together a “spa” day 

Putting together a spa day for a team of nurses in your area requires a lot of coordination. Ask reception or administrative staff if there’s an opportunity to call in masseuses or manicurists. You may also consider sending spa supplies for nurses to share with their team and patients.

Items can include nontoxic nail polish, soothing soaps, face masks, scrubs, and lotions. Your donation may be limited due to potential allergens or other hospital protocol. You can always simplify matters and send gift cards to a local spa that the team can use together on another date. 

It’s About Saying Thanks 

You’ll usually find a theme of gratitude and appreciation on every national holiday — National Nurses Day is no exception. Show the nurses in your life that you care and thank them for all they do. Turn to Cake for more ideas for how to show people in your life you care and help yourself and your loved ones start end-of-life planning

If you're looking for more ways to honor a nurse in your life, read our guide on National Nurses Week


  1. “National Nurses Week May 6-12, 2020.” American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. www.aana.com/membership/national-nurses-week

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