March 16, 2021 · 7 min read

Get Ready to Celebrate Nurses!

Nurses Week 2021 is boosting up nurse leaders and looking toward the future of healthcare.

stephanie behring

By Stephanie Behring
Contributing Writer

nurse receiving flowers in hospital room
nurse receiving flowers in hospital room

Every May, nurses are honored with a weeklong national celebration. Nurses Week, which is always May 6-12, honors nurses for the dedication, care, and skill they demonstrate every day. In 2021, Nurses Week has taken on even greater significance as it recognizes the extraordinary work nurses all over the world have done in the past year.

Last year, 2020 was designated the Year of the Nurse. The American Nurse Association (ANA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have extended that celebration into 2021. There will be events throughout the year for nurses to enhance their education, make connections, and get recognition. So, if you didn’t get to join in last year, there’s still time to participate in the Year of the Nurse.

Last year’s “Year of the Nurse” has been extended through 2021.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN), a worldwide federation of nurses’ associations, announced the theme of Nurses Week 2021: “Nurses: A Voice to Lead,” with a sub-theme of “A Vision for Future Healthcare.”

It’s an incredibly fitting theme for nurses today. There’s been plenty of buzz about nursing leadership in the healthcare community lately: Healthcare organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of strong nurse leadership, and nurses around the county are rising to the challenge. Nurses are earning higher degrees, taking on leadership roles, and redefining healthcare delivery.

With the Year of the Nurse extended into 2021, there’s a lot to celebrate and look forward to.

What’s the History Behind the Week?

Various groups have been lobbying to recognize nurses dating back to 1953, when U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Dorothy Sutherland unsuccessfully proposed a day for nurses to President Eisenhower. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the ICN proclaimed May 12—the birthdate of the British nurse Florence Nightingale, who is widely known as the founder of modern nursing—as International Nurses Day.

Seven years later, in 1982, President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6 National Recognition Day for Nurses. Since then, the ANA, which has supported the profession since 1896, has been the driving force behind the celebrations. It’s added more reasons and ways to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses make to the community, including designating May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.

Student nurses are celebrated as well: May 8 is National Student Nurses Day.

While some aspects of the week—such as discounts and freebies for nurses—are exclusive to Nurses Week, there are opportunities for enrichment, recognition, and awards all year long.

How You Can Participate

You can participate in Nurses Week in a variety of ways. From attending a multi-day conference to entering a contest on your phone, there’s a way to participate that fits your schedule. Check out our roundup of conferences, contests, and freebies below to get started.

Attend a Conference

Conferences are a great way to develop your skills, build your knowledge, and expand your nursing network. It’s a great year to attend a conference, since there are several events both virtual and live to choose from. So whether you’ve always wanted to attend a conference from your living room or you’re looking forward to booking a flight, check out some of the events below. If you need more incentive, don’t forget that you might even be able to get employer reimbursement for attending. Be sure to ask!

This summit, offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and City of Hope, focuses on palliative care training and will be held virtually April 15-16.

If you’re interested in clinical research, check out this virtual conference presented by the Cleveland Clinic April 26-27.

The Ohio University School of Nursing is presenting this virtual conference, which offers the opportunity to earn 4.5 continuing education hours on May 4.

You can earn up to 21 pharmacology contact hours by attending this virtual conference presented by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association June 10-13.

Billed as “THE Healthcare Travel Conference,” this annual event, held September 26-29 in Las Vegas, focuses on traveling healthcare professionals and offers the opportunity to earn continuing education hours.

This large conference with more than 150 speakers is in its fifth year of operation and will be held in a hybrid virtual and live format (live sessions in Orlando) October 18-20.

This biannual event brings together nurses around the globe and is being held virtually Nov. 2-4.

Enter a Contest

There are a handful of contests designed to reward nurses for the hard work they do every single day, with many bestowing gift cards or cash to the winners. Keep in mind that some contests are limited to certain regions. Be sure to read the rules carefully before you enter.

Winners are picked every quarter for this contest, which awards $1,000 to nurses for a much-needed night of fun. While you might think this award is only for California nurses, it’s actually open to any currently employed or retired RN or LPN, members of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), and members of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA).

Show your fellow nurses how you practice self-care by submitting a photo by May 12 to Cross Country Nurses’ Facebook or Instagram page. You could win a $500 gift card if your entry is chosen.

This ongoing contest aims to show the faces of nursing and recognize the exceptional work nurses perform. You can enter by submitting a photo that shows how you or your team face daily challenges. You can win $100 for an individual photo and $500 for a group photo.

Get Freebies and Discounts

Many businesses and websites offer discounts and free items for nurses in May. Nurses can usually expect to find:

  • Discounts on uniforms
  • Free coffee from national chains
  • Free meals and snacks at participating restaurants
  • Discounts on housewares
  • Discounts on classes or free CEUs (The ANA’s free professional development webinar on May 19, “Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 4th Edition,” will help you further your professional career while saving you some money.)

The Nurses Week website is a great place to check frequently for discounts and giveaways for nurses.

Join in on Social Media

You can jump into the celebration today by checking out what’s happening on social media. During Nurses Week you can use the hashtag #nursesweek to tag your posts and check out what your fellow nurses are doing. Throughout the year, you can connect with other nurses by using these popular nursing hashtags:

  • #nurse
  • #nurses
  • #nurselife
  • #yearofthenurse
  • #nursesofinstagram

While you’re at it, follow our hashtags #allnursingschools and #allnursingstory on Instagram and Facebook. Get inspired by personal stories of nurses and nursing students for your own educational journey—plus, watch videos and be in the know about latest updates in the field.

Jump Start Your Career

Nursing leadership is a focal point of Nurses Week 2021. This year is a great time to focus on your own healthcare future and take a few steps forward in your nursing career.

Find a Mentor

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go in the long run. It can be helpful to talk to someone who has been in the field longer than you and has accomplishments similar to your goals. Not sure how to find a mentor? You can begin by reaching out to a professor, starting a conversation with a coworker in a leadership role, or networking.

Get a Credential

Adding a new credential to your resume is a great way to boost your career. You can find courses in a variety of nursing specialties—like critical care nursing or obstetrics—that can help you gain knowledge and stand out in your field. You might even be able to secure a scholarship. You can start by checking out some of the most popular certifications available to nurses.

Go for an Advanced Degree

Have you been meaning to go back to school? The energy and positivity surrounding Nurses Week may give you the motivation you need to earn that degree you’ve been considering. Whether you’re looking to advance your degree by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or you’re hoping to turn your licensed practical nurse (LPN) training into a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, now is a good time to get started.

Remember to Practice Self-Care

As medical professionals who are often in a high-stress environment, nurses experience a personal toll in their line of work. Nurses often work long shifts caring for the medical and emotional needs of multiple patients. In fact, a report recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that among nurses who quit their jobs, 31.5% report being burned out as their primary motivating factor for leaving.

More than 30% of nurses who quit their jobs say burnout is the reason why they leave.

“Nurses have to be willing to take care of themselves,” says Rosa Crumpton, RN, BSN, BS, MBA, HCM, a nurse manager at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Seattle. She says nurses used to always helping others can often find it challenging to put their own needs first. “It goes against everything that has been ingrained in us. This means we have to make our needs known, take our breaks, say no to overtime, and create some boundaries between work and home.”

Self-care can ease your stress, helping you recharge and deliver your best patient care. You don’t need an elaborate ritual. Try these tips to take a little time for yourself:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Unplug from social media for a while
  • Take time to exercise
  • Eat healthy meals
  • Spend time with friends
  • Read a favorite book or watch a favorite movie

If you’re feeling extra overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out. Having support can be an important part of self-care. Beyond talking to friends, Crumpton suggests tapping into your employer’s employee assistance program if you’re feeling stress and burnout.

“This is an anonymous resource that often offers counseling and other mental health services, free of charge,” Crumpton says. “You may also be able to talk with chaplain services if you’re in a hospital setting. Another idea is to form a support group with other healthcare professionals, just to decompress.”


rosa crumpton

With professional insight from:

Rosa Crumpton, RN, BSN, BS, MBA/HCM

Nurse Manager


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