Nurses Appreciation Week kicks off today, so this is your reminder to show the nurses in your life some love now — and gratitude in the future

By Andrea Wurzburger
Updated May 08, 2021 08:24 AM
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May 6th marks the start of Nurses Appreciation Week, a week dedicated to showing hardworking nurses a fraction of the love they show their patients at work.

This year especially, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have sacrificed for much for their communities, selflessly serving on the frontlines of the deadly and dangerous virus, comforting the sick and being there for them when their families could not.

nurse
Credit: Getty

Many nurses we spoke to for this piece acknowledged that hazard pay, better pay and adequate staffing would be the best way to make them feel appreciated — but if you're looking for a personal way to say thank you to the nurses in your life, we have compiled a few meaningful ways for you.

Whether you want to show your gratitude to your child's school nurse, the student nurse in your life, a nurse you received care from or the nurses at your local hospital, read on for some ideas.

Send them something to snack on.

Of the nurses we spoke to, nearly all of them said that food was appreciated. Order from your favorite bakery or restaurant and have it delivered to your local hospital. If you're receiving treatment or visiting a loved one receiving treatment, bring in a box of pastries or donuts or individually wrapped foods for the nurses when you come in. Just make sure to ask the hospital what their protocols are for outside food, as those may have changed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My husband is an ICU nurse and he says food is always welcome. Specifically, he says 'Meals from local restaurants would be the best thing to receive.'" —Brenna O., Seattle

Provide a caffeine pick-me-up.

nurses
Credit: Getty

Two things that go a long way: good coffee and a good attitude! Working long hours on their feet, it's no wonder nurses are running on caffeine. Grab your nurse a gift card to a local coffee shop or bring in a good cup of coffee for them the next time you stop by.

"Coffee, always! Some people bring the big traveler boxes and others ask for specific orders — we love them both. And doughnuts. EVERYONE likes doughnuts." – Emily B., SRNA, Miami

"Something as little as a Starbucks gift card means a lot more than you think!!" —Emily C., nurse in South Carolina

Send them a note of thanks.

Sometimes, something as simple as a 'thank you' goes a long way!

Nurse Appreciation Week Kim Weinberg
Credit: Kim Weinberg

"My patients who thank me mean the world to me. Sure, buying us snacks, lunch or coffee is always, always appreciated, but just saying 'thank you' or writing a note means a lot. Especially since, at my hospital, they put the thank you notes in our files, so when I am dealing with a tough patient, I can look back at twenty notes on file and know I'm doing a good job, and my boss can see that, too!

When my patients and their families are kind to me and thank me, it makes it all worth it and reminds me why I became a nurse. It outweighs all of the tough days." —Kim W., Nurse in a Cardiovascular Surgery Step Down Unit, New Jersey

Nurse Appreciation Week Mary Kratofil
Credit: Mary Kratofil

"The best way to show appreciation is by giving a card with a personal message. Getting any type of gift is great, but it is even more special when someone sends a note that is personal or they do a follow up visit. It's nice to know you have touched someone." — Mary Kratofil, Labor and Delivery Nurse, Youngstown, Ohio

Or organize a way for your whole community to show them they're appreciated.

Like organizing a card drive! In February 2021, the kids of Canton, Connecticut, created approximately 400 Valentine cards for the frontline workers tirelessly caring for their community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valentines for the Frontlines
Credit: Courtesy Amy Jamieson

"The response to the sweet messages — filled with 'thank you's and words of encouragement only a kid can articulate, like 'You deserve a vacation when this is all over!' — was so so heartwarming. One nurse texted me that she was teary-eyed reading her card. I was told the cards were hung in cafeterias and other common areas where the workers could read them. Before the deliveries, I sat on my kitchen floor reading through them and cried, these kids really poured their hearts out to these deserving heroes!

We felt it was the least we could do for our health care and essential workers — many of whom have children at our schools — who have been working day in and day out, saving lives, putting their own lives at risk, and holding people's hands as they battle COVID-19. They've been through the unimaginable and we are so grateful for all they do. Canton as a community hopes these critical workers felt the love on Valentine's Day." —Amy Jamieson; Canton, Connecticut

Give them a minute to relax.

Emily - registered nurse
Credit: Courtesy Emily DeBacker

"The most memorable thing a patient ever did for us was to hire someone to come around to us give 10-minute shoulder/neck massages during nurses week. That was when I was on night shift in the ICU. I didn't realize how much something like that can de-stress you and give a much needed instant mood boost. Food is great, but a massage...whoa!!" —Emily D., PACU RN, Chicago

Bring lots of goodies!

nurse
Credit: Getty

"For my first baby, I planned way in advance and shopped the PEOPLE beauty sale, which meant I rolled up to deliver my baby with a 10-pound bag of beauty products that made me extremely popular with the nurses.

For my second baby, we were mid-pandemic and had relocated to another state, so all the products I'd set aside were stuck in my New York apartment. But I heard food was always appreciated (if not as exciting as Fenty) so we showed up with chocolate at night for the labor & delivery nurses, and then brought the post-natal nurses a catering tray from Potbelly with sandwiches, chips and sodas, to try to break up all the sweets I assume they get. Everyone seemed happy!"—Alex Apatoff, People Lifestyle Director

Show them patience and understanding.

Nurse checking patient in clinic during COVID-19
Credit: Getty

"As amazing as it is to have recognition for what we do, I'm not asking for cake or cookies or pizza. I am asking for patients to be more accepting, understanding and aware. It has been an extremely trying year—not just for the general population, but for nurses around the world. We have been braving this pandemic for the past year, not really knowing what to expect and having our guidelines change seemingly every day. Although we seem to have accepted the state of the world, it doesn't make what we do any easier.

There are only so many of us, and we take care of so many of you at one time. It is not that you are not important. It is not that we don't care. But to take care of so many of you when there are often so few of us can be mentally and emotionally draining.

If you feel like we did not care for you sufficiently or could have been more sympathetic, try to understand that we might've just been in a room with a baby who passed, or with a family that lost a loved one. As terrible as that is for you, it is for us, too. It is not easy, but we do it without a breath to cope; we have to put that behind us in seconds. And we do it for you all. So for nurses week, all I ask is for patience and understanding." —Taylor J., NP, Iowa

"I think the most important thing parents of patients can do to help us out is understand the many hats we tend to wear. It may not be obvious if things are running smoothly, but we as nurses are the point person for the entire medical team: Doctors, therapists, pharmacists, phlebotomists, radiologists, etc. all come to us for the information needed to formulate the plan of care.

In addition, we are many things to each patient and family, including counselor, chaplain and most importantly, advocate. This requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work that most of our parents don't realize take a lot of our time. If just a fragment of patience was practiced daily, we could avoid a lot of our challenges. 

What I think says 'thank you' the most is understanding how much we really do; the lengths we go to in order to get you well and home. Baked goods are always great and who doesn't like (need) coffee! But I can tell you some of my most memorable moments have been when a parent shakes my hand or gives me a hug (pre-COVID times) and just says 'Thank you for taking care of my child.' 

It is such an honor to care for peoples' children. I honestly wouldn't do anything else. But the days are hard and resources are limited. If there's anything I recommend you do for a nurse this week is: be patient, understand they're carrying a lot on their plates, be kind — and, simple enough, just say thank you." — Sarah F., pediatric nurse, L.A.

Wear your masks and get vaccinated.

Lo
Credit: no credit

"The best way to show appreciation for nurses this year is to get vaccinated if you haven't already! Aside from keeping yourself safe, being vaccinated against COVID helps keep healthcare workers like me and my colleagues safe, too. As someone who works with immunocompromised children who are too young to be vaccinated themselves, getting the shot is so important to their safety as well, considering they basically have no way of fighting COVID. I've seen the devastating effects of COVID first-hand, and there's no better way to express gratitude than making sure you're doing your part to get rid of the virus." --Lo S., a Registered Nurse Specializing in Pediatric Transplants