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.


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

In today's world, being in any medical field is especially heroic. Over the last year, 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 of last year, 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 over half a million registered nurses anticipated to retire by the end of 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new registered nurses across the U.S. This means the already severe shortage will only be exacerbated.

Watch ⟶ Preventing Healthcare Burnout: Fostering Connection and Wellbeing in Healthcare Workplaces

And although the coronavirus vaccines have offered a source of hope for many of us, healthcare professionals are still battling the pandemic on the front lines.

Support your healthcare workers with a recognition program

This mental health burden is compounding health care labor shortages and threatening quality of care. Half of the participants in the survey reported that the pandemic had reduced the likelihood of remaining in their field. Psychiatric symptoms — especially PTSD — increased the odds of respondents considering leaving their current profession and reporting trouble completing work-related tasks. The current degree of suffering among health care workers is already impeding the country’s ability to treat Covid-19, conditions left unaddressed during the pandemic, and rising anxiety and depression.

In order 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. 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!

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 or value that you live by.

The best gifts for healthcare workers are often practical as well as thoughtful. Coffee mugs, socks, 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.

Set up a peer recognition program.

While receiving recognition from managers is important, most employees also want acknowledgement from the peers that they work with on a daily basis. Being recognized by a teammate is a powerful motivator and morale booster.

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.

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.

Give 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. Using #InThisTogether, #COVIDHeroes, or #MyHealthcareHero, you can mention individuals or send broad messages.

“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

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. By giving your healthcare team a gift card that they can use to rest and relax outside of work, you'll help promote good self-care practices and encourage mental wellness.

Send out a survey to ask your healthcare workers what they are most looking forward to after the pandemic — 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 whenever they feel comfortable doing so. Airbnb, Southwest Airlines, and Delta gift cards are all great for travel lovers, while a gift card can provide enjoyment for the whole family.

Host fun virtual events.

Before the pandemic, many healthcare teams celebrated Nurses Week with in-person potlucks, luncheons, or other events. But in the age of social distancing, healthcare leaders need to get creative.

Virtual events are a great way to show appreciation for your healthcare staff's hard work. Whether you choose a virtual cooking class, painting class, or cupcake decorating class, virtual events let your healthcare team exercise their creative muscles and have fun getting to know one another outside of work. You can also pick events that promote health and well-being, like a meditation or yoga class.

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, or a local bakery or ice cream, is a perfect nurse appreciation gift.

Host team-building games.

Bring your healthcare staff together with fun team-building games and activities. In hectic work environments, a little levity can help reduce stress 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.

Happy medical team helping patients during COVID-19

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 share it publicly with your team along with an Amazon gift card, or one of the gifts mentioned above.

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

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. 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.

Want to learn more about rewarding your incredible team through Cooleaf's engagement platform? Let's chat!

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 is hurting their ability to be happy in other aspects of their lives.

Between pandemic burnout and worker shortages due to the Great Resignation, healthcare organizations must rebuild connections and show appreciation in order to keep their people.

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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