International Nurses Day: Tuesday 12th May 2020

nurses day

Nursing the World to Health

Tuesday 12th May 2020 is International Nurses Day and this year it is an important one. Nurses across the world have been on the front line “nursing the world to health”, (coincidentally that’s this year’s theme), through the Covid-19 pandemic. Without their dedication, care, and hard work who knows where the healthcare system would be right now. And even without the coronavirus, nurses are vital in our everyday lives, they help to bring new life into the world, give comfort as we leave, and help with everything health-related in between.

So, this International Nurses Day let’s give a thought to all the nurses past and present, male or female, old or young and thank you for everything you do!

What is International Nurses Day?

International Nurses Day has taken place on the 12th of May every year since 1965. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that the 12th of May was chosen as the day to celebrate its anniversary.

Why on the 12th of May?

Because that is the birthday of probably the most famous nurse known across the world, Florence Nightingale. And this year’s celebrations were set to be extra special because 2020 has been elected as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, to coincide with the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale.

The day celebrates the contribution made by nurses across the world every day to society and allows the public to give thanks for the care and commitment they provide every day of the year. And although you may go years before ever needing a nurse, they are always there working in the background, just in case.

How is it celebrated in the UK?

Across the world, International Nurses Day is celebrated in different ways. The International Council of Nurses prepares and distributes resources and evidence to spread the word about the day.

In the UK, a service is held at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the birthday of Florence Nightingale and all the good nursing that takes place across the world. There are important processions that take place by Scholars of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, the Chelsea Pensioners, and the Nurses’ Roll of Honour to celebrate the nurses killed conflict.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the commemorative service has been postponed and will be held at a later date.

A little bit about Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was born on 12th May 1820 but she is known for her influential work during the Crimean War (1854-1856) when Britain was at war with Russia and work on sanitation afterward.

She arrived in Turkey on 4th November 1854 with 38 other nurses and was horrified to see the conditions within the hospitals. Wounded men were sleeping in overcrowded, dirty rooms without any warmth in the form of blankets. With hygiene being neglected many men were dying of infection rather than their injuries. Although the Sanitary Commission was sent to Turkey to flush out the sewers and improve ventilation, which sharply reduced death rates, Nightingale believed that the death rates were due to poor nutrition, stale air, overworked soldiers, and a lack of supplies. And it was this experience which influenced her later career, believing that most men were dying as a result of poor sanitary conditions, she focussed on the sanitary design of hospitals and introducing sanitation into the homes of the working class.

She also set up the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital, London in 1860 with donations given to the Nightingale Fund, in all it raised £45,000. The first nurses trained the hospital began working on 9 July 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Today the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery is part of King’s College London.

Florence Nightingale is credited as being the founder of modern nursing and is an icon of Victorian culture. She was also known as “The Lady with the Lamp” because she would carry a lamp around the hospital whilst doing her rounds to visit wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. And, carrying the lamp is an important procession during the Westminster Abbey service by a foundation scholar of the Florence Nightingale Foundation.


So, this International Nurses Day let’s give a big thank you to the nurses across the world for their dedication and hard work to healthcare. At times we may take them for granted but it’s for certain this year we have all been reminded just how vital they are and even in the hardest of times, they can bring comfort, care, and even a smile when we need it most. Nurses of the world, thank you!


Florence Nightingale Foundation. (2020). Westminster Abbey Commemoration Service for Florence Nightingale. Available at:

Ford, S. (2019). ICN Sets Ambitious Theme for International Nurses Day 2020. Available at:

International Council of Nurses. (2020). Resources. Available at:

The National Archives. (2020). Florence Nightingale Why Do We Remember Her? Available at:

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