National Nurses Day is celebrated on May 6th and starts off National Nurses Week, which goes until May 12th. This holiday was developed to recognize the hard work and commitment of nurses across the U.S., starting with Florence Nightingale, a nurse from the United Kingdom, and her American counterpart Clara Barton, who both paved the way for nurses everywhere. To get the message of this holiday across to young people, expose them to the history, stories, struggles and triumphs of nurses throughout the U.S. and in their own city.


To start off National Nurses Week and the recognition of nurses everywhere, arrange a presentation with a nurse from a local hospital. Depending on the age of your students, some may not have extensive experience with nurses or fully understand what it means to be a nurse. Having both a male and female nurse present will show students that this profession is open to people of either sex. The nurse or nurses presenting should explain the job, including duties, hours, personal experiences and stories and what the job means to them. Students can then be given time to ask questions.

Thank You Cards

For this activity, students are given construction paper and craft materials to construct thank you cards. A student who remembers an experience with a nurse can write the thank you card to that particular nurse. Students who do not have a nurse in mind can write to the nurse or nurses who presented in class. Students are asked to write at least one memorable thing in the thank you card, such as how kindly the nurse treated them during a visit, or the fact that the nurse presenting answered one of the student's personal questions during a presentation. The students can then decorate the card as they see fit, and the cards can be sent to the hospitals where the nurses work.

Nurses in History

Florence Nightingale laid the groundwork for professional nursing with her nursing school St. Thomas's Hospital. Her experience is best illustrated in the Crimean War where she and over 30 female volunteer nurses cared for wounded and dying soldiers. Clara Barton is known best for her brave efforts in the American Civil War and for starting up the American Red Cross. It may invigorate student creativity and imagination to see nursing through such exciting history. Once you teach your class about these nursing pioneers, instruct students to write a fictional, creative recount of an event in Nightingale or Barton's life. Students may write these short stories in first, second or third person. Students can illustrate these stories with pictures and present them to the class.

Role Play

Training for professional nurses often involves role play situations to prepare the nurse for real life situations. This activity is positioned after basic history of nursing and duties and experiences of nursing have been covered in a class lesson. To prepare, set up open-ended scenarios that a nurse might encounter, such as working with a scared child who needs to get a shot. Have your students act out how they would behave in these situations based on what they learned about the history of nursing and the knowledge they acquired from learning about working nurses. You can debrief with your students after each role play by openly discussing responses to the role play scenarios.

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