Being a nurse is hard work, and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has only gotten harder, with nurses feeling more burnt out and underappreciated than ever before. According to our 2022 State of the Healthcare Workforce Survey, 67% of frontline workers planned to leave the profession by the end of the year. With National Nurses Week starting on May 6th, managers of bedside nurses may wonder, “How can I show my nurses I genuinely appreciate and support them?” It can be challenging as a staff manager to truly show your nurses how much you support and care about them, not only as nurses but as people.
Working in healthcare is stressful, difficult and sometimes traumatizing. Mental health struggles, burnout, anxiety, depression and even trauma are becoming more common among nurses. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of anxiety in nurses have been as high as 35%, with those who exhibit symptoms of the virus having anxiety levels up to 80% – a staggering increase. Our survey also showed that over 40% of nurses feel that their mental health has been severely impacted since the start of Covid.
With the stigma that continues to follow mental health concerns, the number of nurses struggling with them is likely much higher than we realize. What can we do about these high levels of mental health conditions in nurses coupled with a lingering pandemic? How can we show our nurses how much we support them during these challenging times?
5 Ways to Actually Celebrate Your Nurses
Over the past few years, Nurses Week gifts and celebrations have been widely mocked or deemed not even close to adequate for recognizing all nurses do. With gifts like another travel mug or a tote bag, nurses are frustrated and feel anything but appreciated. So, as a manager, how can you actually show your nurses how much you appreciate them?
1. Send Each of Your Nurses a Personalized Letter
Give every nurse a handwritten letter, personalized by name, telling them specifically what you appreciate about them and what makes them a great nurse. Making it personal is a fantastic way to show your appreciation authentically. You can create these letters easily on a quick, blank greeting card. Avoid writing the same thing over and over again (they will compare!). Try to think of something unique about each nurse that you can include.
2. Host an Awards Ceremony
The American Nurses Association honors nurses with the DAISY Award®, so why not create your own version? Having an awards ceremony where you either assign awards or have your staff vote for winners will show how much you appreciate their valuable work. It’s all about positive reinforcement! Giving every nurse on your unit a different award is another excellent idea so that every nurse feels recognized.
Some examples of nurse awards include:
- Nurse of the year
- New nurse of the year
- Most punctual
- Best at documenting
- Best teammate
- Best sense of humor
- Most organized
- Best teacher
- Best patient satisfaction score (if applicable)
. . . and more! Keep it fun!
Hand out prizes for these awards that are significant enough to make the nurse feel genuinely appreciated. Follow up your recognition ceremony with a department email or a story in your facility’s newsletter.
3. Order Lunch for Every DAY and NIGHT Shift that Week
Yummy food can really turn a rough shift around, and real food from outside the hospital is even better. Night shift nurses often feel ignored by things like this, so it’s important to do the same for them. Order lunch for the day shift and order dinner for the night shift. Make it different every day, like pasta one night and sub sandwiches another. Varying the meals can show you really thought about what would be nice for everyone. Here’s a tip: avoid pizza! It may seem like an easy way to feed a large group, but many nurses see it as ‘just another pizza party.’
Be sure to take dietary restrictions into account when you order. A staff member with gluten-free or vegan preferences will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
4. Give a Gift that Nurses ACTUALLY Want
Nurses don’t need more pens, another bag or another water bottle. Give your staff something they can use or enjoy, not something that winds up in a junk drawer by the end of the week. If possible at your facility, hold a drawing for some vacation time!
Great gift ideas for nurses include:
- Gift cards to a local coffee shop or restaurant (recommend $20+)
- A spa day or pampering kit
- An extra day of PTO
- An app subscription (like Calm or Headspace for mental health)
- Real coffee or a smoothie/juice bar catered in
- A nice, quality personalized hoodie or jacket
- A new pair of good-quality scrubs
- Grocery delivery service
- A fun subscription like Book of the Month, Ice Cream of the Month or Starbucks rewards
- Fun compression socks
- A high-quality moisturizing face and hand cream
5. Plan a Coffee Chat Each Morning to Discover Your Staff’s Needs
Nothing shows your nurses that you care about what they think more than actually listening to them. And (almost) everyone loves coffee. During Nurses Week, bring a big container of good coffee and spend your mornings meeting with day and night shift nurses to hear what they identify as their biggest needs, then take action on them. Distribute notes from your meetings and have your staff rank their most important needs. While not every change will be feasible right away, your staff will appreciate having their needs addressed and learning a timeline for implementation.
It’s essential for bedside staff managers to communicate that they’re genuine and authentic when giving kudos to staff. Trying one of these ideas can show your nurses how much you care about and support them, so they can be happier and healthier nurses. And what do happier, healthier nurses equal? Better patient outcomes!
Have you had success with Nurses Week events? Leave your comments below to share with others!
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