Today marks 200 years since birth of Florence Nightingale - here’s how to get involved in International Nurses Day

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 1:25 pm
International Nurses Day is an annual event celebrated around the globe, which says thank you to the contribution that nursing staff make to the lives of people every year (Photo: Shutterstock)

International Nurses Day is an annual event celebrated around the globe, which says thank you to the contribution that nursing staff make to the lives of people every year.

But when is it and how does it tie in with the bi-centary of Florence Nightingale’s birth?

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Here’s what you need to know.

When is International Nurses Day?

International Nurses Day takes place on 12 May each year.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has celebrated International Nurses Day since 1965.

In January 1974, 12 May was chosen as the date to celebrate the occasion since it’s the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

The bi-centenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth

Although International Nurses Day is celebrated globally on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth each year, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the nurse’s birth, and it’s also the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of community nursing charity the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), of which Florence Nightingale was one of the founders, told Nursing Times: “We are working in extraordinary times and you are doing an extraordinary job, to protect the health of people, families and communities everywhere.

“Today, all nurses working in the community are demonstrating that the need for excellent community nursing is as great as ever and its opportunities are only growing, as we adapt to today's challenges.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has marked the anniversary by releasing a video tribute to Florence Nightingale on Twitter.

In the video, Mr Johnson said, “Florence Nightingale, author, data scientist, and above all the pioneer of modern nursing, would go on to change the world forever.

“She revolutionised Victorian healthcare, establishing principles that stand to this day. She changed and shaped the very perception of what a nurse is, what a nurse should be, transforming the job into what she called ‘the finest of fine arts’.

“And in doing so she saved lives – not just in her own lifetime and her own country, but for decades to come and in every corner of the globe.”

How can I get involved?

The public has been asked to shine a light out of their windows on Tuesday (12 May) at 8.30pm in order to mark both International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

This year, the ‘shine a light’ event will also recognise the efforts of nursing professionals around the world as they continue to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, has joined other leaders, including Professor Greta Westwood, chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, in encouraging people to shine a light from their window in order to mark the International Nurses Day.

Take to social media

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) explains, “Ordinarily this would be a time for mass celebration, but as nursing staff across the world stand united in responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must use today to shine a light on the remarkable work all health and care staff are doing for the entire nation.”

RCN are asking the public and patients to say thank you to nursing staff everywhere in order to show their members and their colleagues how their professionalism is appreciated.

You can share their Nurses Day 2020 video on Twitter using the hashtag #NursesDay