Celebrate Nurses Week 2019: 7 Ways to Show Your Appreciation

This week is National Nurses Week, a week to celebrate all 4 million nurses in the U.S. and a time for everyone—employers, nurse leaders, other healthcare professionals, patients and their families—to recognize nurses’ vast contributions and positive impact.

While it seems virtually everyone can get onboard with celebration of nurses, the most trusted profession for 17 consecutive years, I’ve learned that many struggle with how to best show their appreciation.

To assist, I’ve created this short list of ideas you can use to honor the nurses you know not just this week, but all year round:

Hospital or health system leaders:

Focus on rewards that can be reaped again and again by your nursing staff, as opposed to episodic recognition. Check out these investments that have long-term impact:

  • Refresh your nursing breakrooms: Consider adding charging stations for mobile devices, stocking with current educational books and magazines for professional development (nurses often don’t have time to go to a centralized education center), or making simple enhancements to the environment, like incorporating aromatherapy.
  • Partner with local businesses: There may be organizations in your hospital’s own backyard that will partner with you to offer perks or discounts to nurses with their ID badges. For example, one nurse leader I know pursued a membership discount at a nearby yoga and Pilates center for nurses at her organization, which was both well received and used.
  • Grant occasional work-from-home days to nurse leaders: Nurse leaders often receive less recognition than nurses on the frontlines because they spend more time managing teams and resources than interacting directly with patients. Make sure they feel appreciated too. One way to do this is to grant nurse managers, directors, and above one work-from-home day per month.

Nurse leaders:

Consistent and frequent recognition is the name of the game to effectively recognize and show appreciation to the nurses on your unit. Consider these direct, on-the-spot, and visible options:

  • Real-time recognition: While nursing awards like the DAISY program are great, it’s important to provide frequent recognition to deserving nurses right on-the-spot. One thing I found effective as a nurse leader was maintaining books of gift cards (typically to the hospital café or coffee shop) in each unit and empowering nurse managers to give out those gift cards whenever and wherever warranted. Frontline nurses loved the real-time recognition and the boost in morale and retention was well worth the investment.
  • Shine a spotlight: So many hospitals relegate nurse recognition to bulletin boards in hospital hallways, where only other clinicians can see it. Work with your organization’s internal communication or marketing and PR teams to determine opportunities for broader recognition of hardworking nurses. For example, maybe there’s an organization-wide newsletter or hospital Facebook page where nurses can be featured on a recurring basis.
  • Create opportunities for patients to show appreciation: Recently, my nieces and nephews visited my home when my sons weren’t home, so they left messages on the whiteboards in my boys’ rooms. Those messages stayed up for weeks because they loved the fact that their cousins took the time to leave greetings and doodles for them. Every patient room has a dry-erase board—consider dedicating a small section of the board for patients to write messages to their nurses, or offering blank thank you notes that they can use if they wish.

Patients and families:

Have you received excellent patient care and want to share our gratitude? When it comes to appreciation from patients and families, often the simplest gestures mean the most.

  • Say thank you: While it sounds so basic, the reality is many patients don’t even take this step. Nurses understand that you’re receiving care because you don’t feel well, and as a result, your mood may be under the weather as well. No matter how you feel, simply uttering and meaning those two small words can make a nurse’s day.
  • Drop off a healthy snack: Nurse breakrooms, like most offices, are often full of treats—pizza, cupcakes, and cookies are frequently delivered by well-meaning physicians and patients. Consider sending a snack to nurses that’s on the healthier side, like fruit, trail mix, or protein bars. They’ll still feel appreciated and those snacks will provide the right fuel for their long shift!
  • Share your appreciation and praise with your nurse’s manager: Like any job in any industry, it always means a lot when praise comes from above. Consider taking the time to not only thank their nurse directly, but also share their appreciation with the nurse manager.

What ideas did I miss? How are you recognizing and appreciating nurses at your organization all 52 weeks of the year? I’d love to hear from you and build on this list for next year!