Originally celebrated as Nurses Week from 1965 and changed to Nurses Day in the 1980s, Nurses Day is a day set aside to honour and recognise the contribution of nurses to Singapore. It is usually marked with celebrations for nurses, including graduation ceremonies, blood donation drives, concerts, exhibitions, funfairs and charity events. Since 1990, the President has opened the Istana to nurses on this day, to thank them for the contribution to the health and well-being of the nation.
Unlike other countries, which celebrate Nurses Day on 12 May, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, Singapore celebrates Nurses Day on 1 August. This dates marks the beginning of the development of nursing in Singapore.
Up till 1885, healthcare in Singapore was poor. While there were several hospitals (in the Pearl's Hill, Sepoy Lines and Kandang Kerbau areas), there was a lack of nurses to support the work of the doctors. The call went out for nurses, and was answered by nuns from the local French Convent, who started nursing at the General Hospital at the Sepoy Lines on 1 August 1885.
On 1 August 2000, President Mr S R Nathan inaugurated the President's Award for Nurses, given out every year to up to three outstanding nurses.