Being a nurse is hard work, and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has only gotten harder. Nurses are more burnt out and feeling underappreciated than ever. According to our recent State of the Healthcare Workforce Survey 67% of frontline workers are planning to leave the profession by the end of this year. With 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 be able to 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%, but those who exhibit symptoms have been up to 80%, a staggering increase. Our survey shows 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. With these high levels of mental health disorders in nurses and no end in sight to the pandemic, what can we do about it? How can we show our nurses how much we support them during these challenging times?
Ways to actually celebrate your nurses
Nurses week gifts and celebrations have been widely mocked or deemed not even close to adequate for all nurses do over the past few years. With gifts like another cup or a cheap 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?
Send each of your nurses a personalized letter
Send every nurse a letter, personalized to THEM, telling them specifically what you appreciate about them and what makes them a great nurse. Making it personal is a great way to show your appreciation authentically. This can be done easily on a quick, blank greeting card. Avoid writing the same thing over and over again (they WILL compare!) and try to think of something unique about each nurse that you can include.
Host an awards ceremony
Having an awards ceremony where you either assign awards or have your staff vote will show how much you appreciate their hard and good work. It’s all about positive reinforcement! Giving every nurse on your unit a different award is another excellent version so that no nurse feels left out or bitter about not receiving an award.
Some examples of these awards can 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
… and more! Keep it fun!
Hand out prizes for these awards that are significant enough to make the nurse feel genuinely appreciated.
Order lunch every DAY and NIGHT shift for the week
Yummy food can really turn a rough shift around, and real food from outside the hospital can do even better. Night shift nurses often feel ignored with 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 noodles one night and fun sandwiches another. Varying it can show you really thought about what would be good for everyone. AVOID pizza! It may seem easy to fill a large group with this gesture, but nurses see it as ‘just another pizza party’.
Give a gift that nurses ACTUALLY want
Nurses do not need more pens, another bag, another cup, or another umbrella. Give your staff something they can USE or ENJOY, not something that will end up in a junk drawer by the end of the week. If possible at your facility- raffle off some vacation time!
Some ideas include:
- A gift card (recommend $20+)
- A spa or pamper kit
- An extra day of PTO
- An app subscription (like calm or Headspace for mental health)
- A gift card for coffee
- REAL coffee
- A (nice) shirt or jacket (maybe personalize them as well!)
- A new pair of NICE scrubs
- Grocery delivery
- A fun subscription like Book of the Month, Wine of the Month, or Starbucks rewards
- FUN compression socks (maybe personalize these too!)
- A nice lunch box
Bring coffee every morning and have coffee chats with your staff about what they need
Nothing shows your nurses that you care about what they think more than actually listening to them. And 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 have to say about their own needs and take action on them.
It’s important for bedside staff managers to communicate that they are genuine and authentic when given kudos to staff. Trying one of the above methods can show your nurses that you care and how much you support them, especially during this hard time, so that they can be happier and healthier nurses. And what do happier healthier nurses equal? Better patient outcomes!