10 Appreciation Ideas for Nurses and Healthcare Workers

10 Appreciation Ideas for Nurses and Healthcare Workers

National Nurses Week and Healthcare Week may not be until May, but showing appreciation for the healthcare workers on your staff is important year-round. Here are 10 creative ways to recognize the heroes in your organization.

10 Appreciation Ideas for Nurses and Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers (doctors, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals) are modern-day heroes. They dedicate their lives to caring for others, facing long hours and years of specialized training to achieve their positions.

In today's world, being in any medical field is especially heroic. Recently, the coronavirus pandemic put the health and wellbeing of millions of medical and frontline workers at severe risk. It's also placed them under an immense amount of stress.

Many healthcare professionals report feeling chronic stress and burnout. Mental Health America surveyed over 1,000 healthcare workers between June and September 2020 and found that 93% reported experiencing stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75% said they were overwhelmed.

With more than 70% of registered nurses experiencing high levels of stress, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the need for 1.1 million new registered nurses across the U.S. at the end of 2022 with many nurses.

In the years following the Pandemic, many hospitals and institutions sought to provide resources to combat burnout. Linda Matzigkeit, Chief Administrative Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), spoke with John Duisberg on the Cooleaf podcast about her experience supporting CHOA’s diverse, distributed workforce:

“In 2020 we started to see employees and their families struggle with the Pandemic. We’ve had parents who were desperate to find mental healthcare for their kids and now they don’t have to worry about that,” Linda said. CHOA began offering free mental health services and dependents, along with free mental health counseling on-site.

“We also introduced a number of programs and worked with groups on meditation, stress relief tactics, and massages. A lot of things to help our clinicians in their units, whether they’re in or outside of work.”

In their third year of offering these programs, they’ve seen about 15,000 visits to mental health professionals and an increase in morale.

Stresses from the pandemic continue to impact healthcare workers and the healthcare industry continues to battle labor shortages.

To help support their medical staff and prevent burnout, healthcare leaders and the organizations that work for them need to foster a workplace environment of self-care, compassion, and appreciation.

Organizations need to transform workplace culture to empower health workers and be responsive to their voices and needs, much like CHOA did in providing additional benefits.

This begins by listening to health workers and seeking their involvement to improve processes, workflows, and organizational culture.

Prioritizing social connection and community as a core value in your organization is vital to the mental health of healthcare workers. This not only enhances job fulfillment but also protects against loneliness and isolation, ultimately improving the quality of patient care.

We put together 10 of our best ideas to show appreciation for healthcare professionals during National Nurses Week, Doctor's Day, Health Care Week, or any other time of year!

Support your healthcare workers with a recognition program

1. Personalized mugs, shirts, water bottles, or face masks

Put your team's values front and center with personalized, custom gifts for nurses and your healthcare staff. You can choose your organization's logo or get creative and go with a popular catchphrase, highlight specific units, or values that you live by.

The best gifts for healthcare workers are often practical as well as thoughtful. Coffee mugs, compression socks, hand cream, or tumblers make great gifts because they can be used on a regular basis and remind healthcare workers that they're valued and appreciated during long shifts.

2. Host fun virtual events

For healthcare organizations in remote settings, healthcare software organizations like Net Health continue to operate fully remotely.

They use online activities and virtual events, hosted through Cooleaf, to engage their people. They also take ideas from their employees on what to host next.

“You get engagement from all ends,” said Heather Groomes, Employee Experience Coordinator at Net Health. “Employees get to put their ideas into action and then they get to say,  ‘Wow, I’m really contributing to something really wonderful.’”

Virtual events are a great way to show appreciation for your healthcare staff's hard work. There are tons of virtual cooking classes, cupcake decorating classes, and virtual painting classes available. You can also pick events that promote health and well-being, like a meditation or yoga class.

3. Set up a peer recognition program

While receiving recognition from managers is important, most employees also want acknowledgment from their work peers daily. Being recognized by a teammate is a powerful motivator and morale booster.

Net Health’s Vice President of Human Resources Carol Lewis said this about the power of recognition:

“It helps our people find grace in difficult situations. When you know people you give grace, you create space for collaboration.”

It's important to make sure that recognition is an easy and fun experience for employees — not something that adds to their stress. A peer recognition platform can make it simple for your staff to recognize one another on the go.

4. Let employees hear directly from leaders

Only 66% of healthcare workers say their leader appreciates the work they do. While many healthcare organizations send out messages from their CEO and other senior leaders for Nurses week and Hospital Week, employees want to hear appreciation from their direct leaders.

Personal messages from leaders show that they see and care about the impact their employees are making on the organization. eCards are an easy, quick, and fun way to communicate appreciation. Make your gesture even more heartfelt with handwritten notes to help build a culture of respect and reduce attrition at their hospitals.

5. Give Some Social Recognition

Online connections have become more important as we keep our physical distance. Thanking frontline workers through a social media post is a great way to publicly give recognition.

Share your people’s stories on Linkedin, either through a public recognition on. the page or in your own story series. Organizations like Pinterest and Mountainseed actively share employees’ wins, promoting not only the individual’s good work but also setting an example of your supportive culture.

“Healthcare is very rewarding, but fundamentally it’s a tough business. We see tremendous amounts of burnout. One of the things that we know will really combat that is when people feel appreciated.”

Dr. Laura Forese, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President
New York-Presbyterian

6.  Give gift cards that offer memorable experiences

Research shows that the joy of planning a future vacation (or staycation!) is often greater than the actual experience of taking it. Send out a survey to ask your healthcare workers what they’d be interested in— an international vacation? A spa day? More time with family members? After completing the survey, give your team members gift cards that they can use for that big trip or personal time. Airbnb, Southwest Airlines, and Delta gift cards are all great for travel lovers, while a gift card can provide enjoyment for the whole family.

7. Give coffee and other snacks

Sweet treats, coffee, and other goodies are always appreciated, especially after a long day of work (did you know that nurses walk between 4-5 miles in a 12-hour shift?). A gift card for Starbucks, a local bakery, or a great ice cream spot is a perfect nurse appreciation gift.

A themed gift box is also a trendy and fun way to surprise your staff. Think global snack sampler, 90s throwback snacks, or even movie night bites.

8. Team-building games

Bring your healthcare staff together with fun team-building games and activities. A little levity can help reduce stress in hectic work environments and bring your staff closer together.

The best games for healthcare staff don't require everyone to be in the same place at the same time. Virtual scavenger hunts, where staff members must take and share photos based on a fun prompt, can be a fun way to bring people together. You can also encourage some friendly competition with wellness challenges, like water-drinking competitions, step challenges, or recipe exchanges.

9. A heartfelt thank-you

A simple, genuine thank-you message can go a long way to brighten your team's spirits. National Nurses Week and Healthcare Week are the perfect time to give your healthcare staff a word of thanks.

If possible, try to get everyone on the leadership team to say thank you in their own words. Take the time to craft a thoughtful message and send it out to your team along with an Amazon gift card, or one of the gifts mentioned above.

10. A surprise paid day off

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones.

An extra day off can mean a whole lot of possibilities to overworked and overstressed employees. A well-being day is a win-win all around. The Cooleaf team has a quarterly day of rest which many use to recharge.

It means that they can catch up on the countless movies that they have missed, finally go on a picnic with their loved ones, or even just take the additional time to sleep in.

There are few things that make healthcare workers feel more loved, or more rewarded, than an extra day of freedom.

Happy medical team helping patients during COVID-19

Let’s continue to celebrate our essential workers!

Recognition connects people to their organization because it helps them feel appreciated, valued, and more inclined to stay. Unfortunately, one-third of healthcare workers don’t feel connected to others at their place of work. 42% of healthcare workers say their situation at work hurts their ability to be happy in other aspects of their lives. Between post-pandemic burnout and labor shortages, healthcare organizations must rebuild connections and show appreciation to keep their top talent.

Healthcare burnout isn't just a problem that individual workers face — it's an organization-wide issue. When healthcare organizations create a culture that prioritizes employee appreciation and recognition, team members are happier, more engaged, and able to provide better care.


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