March 20, 2020 · 7 min read

Gear Up for National Nurses Week—and Nurses Year!

Recognize and honor the contributions of nurses in our communities May 6–12.

stephanie behring

By Stephanie Behring
Stephanie Behring is an education and healthcare writer living on the east coast. 

female nurses giving instructions to team of nurses
nurses collaborating on patients on ipad

You probably know that every year in May, National Nurses Week honors nurses for their work caring and advocating for patients and their families. But did you know that 2020 is being celebrated as the year of the nurse as well? It’s especially fitting given the need to recognize and appreciate healthcare professionals with this year’s pandemic crisis. There will be events all year to honor those dedicated to this demanding profession, and we’ve compiled many of them here to help you celebrate your chosen career.


When Is National Nurses Week?

As always, National Nurses Week will run from May 6-12, timed with Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the woman considered the founder of modern nursing, and in her honor, the World Health Organization has declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Nursing organizations across the country are planning special celebrations throughout the year, and the American Nurses Association (ANA), one of the oldest associations of professional nurses in the country, is even dedicating the entire month of May to honoring nurses.

“A month allows greater opportunities to promote understanding and awareness of our profession, encourage young people to consider nursing as a career, and recognize the vast contributions of nurses,” says Deborah Plumstead, an ANA senior campaign specialist.


What is the History of National Nurses 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. But it wasn’t until 20 years later when the International Nurses Council (ICN) proclaimed May 12 as International Nurses Day. It wasn’t until another 8 years later, in 1982, that President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6 National Recognition Day for Nurses, and since then the ANA, which has supported the profession since 1896, has been the driving resource behind the celebrations. They’ve added more reasons and ways to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses make to the community—including May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.

All this means that it’s a great year to celebrate nurses (and being a nursing student) beyond grabbing an extra cookie from the break room during a week in May. From self-care to national contests, there’s something for every nurse who wants to participate.


How to Participate

Attend a Conference

Attending a conference or another nursing event can help you learn something new and build your network. There are a number of special events scheduled this year, so treat yourself to a career boost—or better yet, see if your employer will cover the cost of attending. However, before booking arrangements, be sure to double check whether the events are still happening, due to travel and social distancing restrictions related to current healthcare concerns.

Presented by Sigma and the National League for Nursing, this conference takes place in Washington, D.C., March 26–28.

This summit focuses on palliative care training and will be held April 15–16 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Held April 27–28 at the Cleveland Clinic in Mayfield, Ohio, this conference is for nursing professionals interested in clinical research.

Held May 3 in Athens, Ohio, this conference will provide the chance for nurses to earn seven continuing education units with a focus on serving vulnerable populations.

This conference will be held in Reston, Virginia, June 11–14 and will focus on the role of psychopharmacology in clinical care.

NAHN’s conference is dedicated to advocacy and is being held in Miami June 14–17.

This event is focused on increasing diagnoses in primary care settings and will be held in Naples, Florida, July 11–12.

This conference in Las Vegas is for a wide range of traveling healthcare professionals and will be held September 13–16.

This event is October 19–21 in Orlando, Florida, and features over 250 speakers.

Recognize a Nurse (or Yourself!)

The year of the nurse is also an excellent time to get involved in your professional community. You can find events locally, at the state level, and nationwide.

Two large nursing organizations are offering special recognition for nurses:

  • The Daisy Foundation’s Award for Extraordinary Nurses (Daisy Award). The Daisy Foundation has been honoring nurses since 1999. It works with 4,000 healthcare organizations globally to celebrate nursing with awards for individual nurses, teams, and nursing leaders. Winners are nominated by their peers and patients throughout the year. The foundation helps organizations set up ceremonies to present winners with an award package that includes a framed certificate, a daisy pin to wear on your badge showing you’ve received this honor, a hand-carved stone sculpture, and a spotlight page on the Daisy Foundation website. Winners are also eligible for exclusive career development opportunities.
  • The International Council of Nurses’ Nightingale Challenge. In 2020, the International Council of Nurses (INC), one of the most respected and longstanding global healthcare organizations, is challenging employers to identify 20 nurses for leadership and personal development. The goal is to encourage organizations worldwide to promote nursing leadership. Selected nurses will receive free training to advance their careers and have the opportunity to take on leadership roles. Participating organizations will have access to classes and seminars from global nursing leaders and to unique networking opportunities.

Enter a Contest

There are also a range of contests nurses can enter. Some might require a little creativity when it comes to entering, while others are as simple as filling out a form. Keep in mind that some contests are limited to certain specialties or regions, so make sure you read the rules carefully. Here are some ways nurses can win this year:

Nurses at all levels, including CNAs, are eligible to win a Range Rover by filling out an entry form by August 1.

Though the name wouldn’t suggest it, this contest is open to members of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) (but residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New York and Wisconsin are not eligible). Winners are picked quarterly for a $1,000 award toward a fun night out.

If you’re a nurse or nursing student in Kentucky, you can win $500 for a T-shirt design idea submitted by April 30.

Ten lucky nurses will take the field at Fenway Park during Nurse Night on May 20. One winning nurse will also throw the first pitch of the game. Nominations for this contest close on April 9.

Though the February deadline has passed for 2020, bookmark this one for next year. You can win up to $1,000 for submitting a photograph that highlights the challenges of your work in nursing.

Get Freebies and Discounts

Show your badge during National Nurses Week, and many businesses will honor your work with free or discounted items. You can also sign up for free classes, including an ANA webinar on May 10 titled Magnify Your Voice — Use Storytelling to Advance Nursing. While most 2020 deals haven’t been announced yet, you can generally count on:

  • Uniform discounts
  • Free coffee from national chains
  • Free meals and snacks at participating restaurants
  • Discounts on housewares
  • Discounts on classes or free continuing education credits

Watch for discounts on the Nurses Week website.

Join in on Social Media

Nurses are joining the festivities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, using the hashtags #YON2020 or #yearofthenurse. Share stories about your favorite nurse, nurse educator, mentor, or colleague with us on our Facebook Page to pay it forward for everything they’ve done for you.

Jump Start Your Career

Find a Mentor

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over 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.

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over the long run.

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 specialties that can help you gain knowledge and stand out in your field. You might even be able to get financial assistance from your employer toward a course. You can start by checking out the many credentials offered by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). With more training, you can join nurses who maintain high credentials and are honored on March 19, Certified Nurses Day.

Go for an Advanced Degree

Have you been meaning to go back to school? Nurses Week is excellent motivation to earn that degree you’ve been thinking about. Whether you’re looking to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or turn your licensed practical nurse (LPN) training into a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN), 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, 15.6% of nurses in a 2019 national survey reported feelings of burnout. Self-care can ease this frazzle, helping you recharge and deliver your best patient care. You don’t need an elaborate ritual, but you do need to make time to nurture your resilience. Some ways to do that:

  • 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 watching a favorite movie
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Go for the Next Level

From an LPN to a Doctorate in Nursing, explore a variety of programs that will energize and educate you.

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