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.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- When is National Nurses Day?
- What is National Nurses Day?
- Ideas on How to Celebrate National Nurses Day
- How to Say ‘Happy Nurses Day’
- Gift Ideas for National Nurses Day
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:
- 2022: Friday, May 6
- 2023: Saturday, May 6
- 2024: Monday, May 6
- 2025: Tuesday, May 6
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.
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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.
How to Say ‘Happy Nurses Day’
It’s important to acknowledge this holiday and the hardworking nurses that inspire it. If you’re curious about the best way to say “Happy Nurses Day,” we provide a few different methods of doing so.
Consider some short or longer messages to send depending on how well you know the nurses you’re reaching out to. If you were a patient of a particular nurse or team of nurses, personalize your message with inside jokes or things you recall talking about.
Wishing you a wonderful Nurses Day! Thank you for all you do.
A simple message like this can be sent to a local team of nurses — or really any team of nurses anywhere that you’d like to thank.
God bless you and your team. Your work is so important to me and others like me. Happy Nurses Day!
This message is a bit more personal and is great for a hospital with religious affiliations. Of course, if your faith is important to you, you can share this message with anyone.
Thank you! I’m here because of you. I hope you have a fantastic Nurses Day!
In addition to a message like this, you can elaborate a bit more on what meant the most to you during your hospital stay or treatment.
You deserve more than just a day to celebrate yourself. Nonetheless, Happy Nurses Day!
A message like this is a bit more personal, but, again, can be sent to a nurse or team of nurses anywhere and will be met with appreciation.
I know you have tough days and I know you have great days, but I certainly hope Nurses Day is a great one! Never give up!
It’s no secret that nurses have incredibly difficult jobs. Recognizing this fact and thanking them is an important sentiment to address on Nurses Day.
Thank you for all the amazing work you and your team did with my husband. We are eternally grateful. Have a lovely Nurses Day!
A personal message like this can run a bit longer, too. Letting a nurse or team of nurses know exactly why or what parts of their efforts were so special to you or a family member will go a long way.
Woohoo! It’s Nurses Day! You ladies and gents deserve to celebrate. Thank you for all you do in our community!
As hard as nurses work, they’re often made up of a fun-loving group of people as well. Nurses Day is meant to be celebratory!
Gift Ideas for National Nurses Day
In addition to messages and well wishes, a gift is never a bad idea — especially for Nurses Day! You don’t have to spend a ton of money or go out of your way to make an impact. It’s all about letting them know that they’re important to you and you’re grateful. It doesn’t require a large gift to make someone feel appreciated and special.
Flowers or a plant
Flowers or a new plant is something everyone at the nurses’ station can enjoy. Bringing the outdoors inside is always a nice touch to keep things bright and fresh, too. Shop around for something unique or create your own bouquet if you have a garden or local farmer’s market.
A “survival” kit
You can put together a small basket, box, or collection of items to help nurses get through their long shifts. Consider things like healthy snacks, drink mixes (perhaps caffeinated), hair ties or wraps, fresh socks, a portable phone charger, hand lotion, earplugs, eye masks, and so on.
Coffee, tea, wine, or liquor
Everyone loves a great beverage. Nurses need caffeine to get through their shifts. A gift card to a local coffee shop is a convenient option. That being said, you can also help them enjoy a drink or two after their shift. Pick out a bottle of your favorite wine to share. You may also consider including a custom glass, mug, or cup as an added touch. Create a custom cocktail recipe for the occasion if you really want to get creative.
Though a small token, some comfy socks for after-hours or some compression socks for work hours can soothe tired feet. Find something fun and local if you can or grab a design that’s personal to the nurse or team of nurses you’re shopping for.
A nurse can use headphones during workouts, to help them take naps during breaks, to get in the zone before long shifts, or just relax. Consider your nurse’s unique style when you shop, too. You may want to include other accessories with this gift.
Outdoor or picnic gear
If you live in an area known for great outdoor spaces, consider grabbing some cute picnic gear, lawn games or a chair, a hammock, or something else personal to a special nurse in your life. Inspiring them to spend time outdoors on their days off is a great way to help them unwind.
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.
- “National Nurses Week May 6-12, 2020.” American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. aana.com