Celebrating Nurses Week: 10 Fascinating Facts

By Emily Arndt on May 6, 2024

Plus, ideas for recognizing National Nurses Week.

May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, and we’re excited to celebrate these important professionals by taking a look at the history of nursing and sharing some surprising stats on the profession. Are you ready to test your knowledge? Looking for ideas on how to celebrate at your healthcare organization? Let’s dive in!

Though the first request to proclaim a “Nurse Day” was made in 1953 by Dorothy Sutherland, it wasn’t until 1982 that it became a nationally-recognized day, when President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6, 1982. Now, “International Nurses Day” is celebrated annually on May 12th, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday. More on her below.

This year’s National Nurse Week theme by the American Nurses Association is “Nurses make the difference.” This theme embodies the spirit of compassion and care had by nurses in all healthcare settings. It also acknowledges the unparalleled impact nurses have made during the COVID-19 pandemic and their contributions to healthcare in general.

The American Nurses Association offers a toolkit packaged with resources and activities to help you celebrate Nurses Week 2024 at your healthcare organization.

To celebrate Nurses Week, let’s take a look at ten amazing facts about nursing:

  1. Nurses save lives every day, preventing two-thirds of safety-compromising medical errors.
  2. On average, nurses walk at least a 5K every 12-hour shift.
  3. Nurses outnumber doctors three-to-one in the US.
  4. The symbol of nursing is an oil lamp, after Florence Nightingale, who would tend to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War while carrying an oil lamp.
  5. According to a 2022 Gallup poll of honesty and ethical standards, nurses are more trusted than any other profession out there. In fact, nursing has primarily topped the list since its inception in 1999.
  6. The first nursing school in the US was established in 1873 in New York City at Bellevue City Hospital. The program was one year long and was based on the principles of Florence Nightingale's work.
  7. There are 104 different nursing specialties to choose from.
  8. Nurses can join the military. The US Army Nurse Corps was created in 1901 as part of the US Army Medical Department.
  9. The first documented travel nurses were sent to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras in the late 1970s.
  10. Nursing is the largest healthcare profession.

There are 4.7 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. One-quarter of those RNs will reportedly retire over the next five years. Because there is already a nurse shortage, this mass exodus could impact patient care profoundly. The federal government has projected that 203,000 new RN positions will be created each year from 2021 to 2031.

To attract those new applicants, try new strategies to mitigate burnout at your organization. Check out the blog about that below.



Now is a great time to show and tell your nurses you appreciate them! Check out this list of 17 ideas for Nurses Week activities. What are some ways you celebrate National Nurses Week at your organization? Share with us in the comments below!

Emily Arndt

Em, a proud cat mom to Margot and Teddy, enjoys learning guitar, the beach, writing, and working on her sarcasm.


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