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International Nurses Day

The tireless efforts of nurses all over the world are celebrated every year on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth in 1820.

Is International Nurses Day a Public Holiday?

International Nurses Day is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, May 12, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours.

Medical Team Working On Patient In Emergency Room

Nurses and doctors work together to save lives.

©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

What Do People Do?

Nurses are appreciated in many different ways on International Nurses Day, also called IND. People are encouraged to take time to thank a nurse who has been there for them or their loved ones during days of sickness.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) chooses a new theme for every year and prepares and distributes something called the International Nurses Day Kit. This kit contains educational and public information materials, to be used by nurses everywhere.

The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) use IND to focus attention on the important task of recruiting and training nurses worldwide. Estimates show that worldwide, we will be short 18 million health workers by 2030 unless serious action is taken to recruit and train more.

In the UK, there is a ceremony in Westminster Abbey in London on Nurses Day.

Public Life

International Nurses Day is an observance and not a public holiday.

Background

In 1953, an official with the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Dorothy Sutherland, asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower to proclaim a Nurses Day. However, the president did not do so at the time.

Since 1965, the International Council of Nurses has celebrated nurses May 12, which was Florence Nightingale’s birthday. She is widely considered the founder of modern nursing. In January 1974, this day was finally officially made International Nurses Day.

Symbols

During the annual service in Westminster Abbey, nurses pass a symbolic lamp between themselves and onto the High Altar. This signifies the passing of knowledge from one nurse to another. Florence Nightingale was nicknamed the “Lady with the Lamp” by her patients during the Crimean war in the 1850s, and she is often depicted carrying a lamp.

The official symbol for nurses is a serpent entwined around a staff, an ancient Greek symbol associated with healing the sick.

International Nurses Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015TueMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2016ThuMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2017FriMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2018SatMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2019SunMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2020TueMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2021WedMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2022ThuMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2023FriMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2024SunMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance
2025MonMay 12International Nurses DayWorldwide observance

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