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Tips to make National Nurses Day meaningful and memorable

As National Nurses Day approaches, many friends, families and employers plan activities and gifts to recognize the nurses in their lives. Is it possible to show enough gratitude for all that nurses do? Each year, one week in May is devoted to honoring nurses, and in 2021, Nurses Week is May 6-12, with National Nurses Day falling on the first day.


How can anyone adequately show sincere appreciation for a workforce consisting of millions of selfless individuals who put their lives on the line each day, ushering new life into the world, comforting those taking their final breaths, and providing care to patients during all their times of need in between?

While nothing seems adequate, some creativity and effort can help make May 6 a memorable and special day for the nurses on your team.


One way to find out for sure what would make your nurse feel special is to ask them. If you’re an employer with a large nursing staff, you could ask them via a survey or poll, suggests one nurse.

“As a nurse of 12 years, I have received a fair share of gifts on Nurses Day, some of them useful or thoughtful, and (others) not so much,” said Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN and CNE advisor for

“I have a golf umbrella from one year that I still use to this day, and I have received a pen and a $2 off coupon to the hospital cafeteria (not so great)” she added. “Nurses have always worked hard, and last year has been especially trying for the nursing profession. As a nurse, I would love to see some real thought and consideration go into Nurses Day this year.”

She suggests a real catered lunch or meal, “not a pizza party,” she explained, as those are notoriously common among management, and not a saran-wrapped cafeteria meal, but a real “catered meal from a local café or restaurant.” She added that it’s helpful to spread the meal out over multiple shifts so that no one is left out. She also recommended an extra shift of paid time off. “There is no better way to show that management values the tireless work that nurses do than by gifting extra PTO that they can use for a mental health day.”

Providing multiple options is another way to ensure nurses get something they will enjoy and value. “We always want our health care pros to know how much we’ve got their backs, but especially after a year like this past one. That’s why we’re giving them choices so they can pick the gift that best fits their lifestyle,” explained John Maaske, CEO & founder of Triage Staffing. “Since we’re a company that staffs travel nurses for health care facilities around the country, we don’t see or talk to our nurses every day. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be celebrated, however,” he concluded. He said Triage’s nurses can choose from a variety of fun swag items for their Nurses Day gift.


One unique idea anyone can give is the gift of college, especially since nurses often have multiple advanced degrees in addition to their nursing degree.

“Nurses focus on the well-being of their patients. A gift that focuses on the well-being of nurses is a fitting way to honor the incredible work they do. Given that financial wellness is often closely linked to physical and emotional wellness — a gift that helps with educational expenses can truly improve a nurse’s well-being,” said Patricia Roberts, chief operating officer of “Gift of College gift cards are an ideal gift for nurses who are encumbered with a portion of our nation’s $1.6+ trillion in outstanding student loan debt or who are struggling to save for their own advanced education or a loved one’s higher education expenses.”

According to Roberts, various studies show a large percentage of nurses end up with significant student loan debt. Therefore, student loan repayment is a top concern and major stressor among nursing graduates. Likewise, a recent survey showed 75% of employees rank assistance with saving for college or paying down student loan debt among their top three desired benefits.

Gift of College gift cards are available in denominations of $25 to $10,000 or more and can be redeemed as a contribution to most any student loan or 529 college savings account. “Employers are giving them as financial wellness gifts to employees — recognizing just how many (employees) struggle with the cost of higher education,” Roberts said.

An Atlanta-based gifting platform offers thoughtfully curated and highly personalized gift boxes for all occasions, including Nurses Week. Box of Zeal has launched two new gift boxes specifically to honor nurses, according to co-founder Ashley Blakely. In addition to their nurses’ “Royal Treatment” and “Daily Essentials” gift boxes, which include a variety of nurse swag such as mugs, chocolate, tea, lotion and stationery, Blakely recommends the wellness and self-care boxes as additional options for Nurses Day gifts. “Employers can build their own box or choose from one of our precurated boxes,” Blakely explained.

Members of the local community can get involved in recognizing nurses next month, too.

“I work full time as a pediatric ICU nurse and have been recognized by parents and neighbors in the community when around town. It is always humbling to hear (directly) from them and their words of encouragement in person,” said Jack Kluesner, R.N. and talent advocate at Incredible Health, a growing, award-winning career marketplace for connecting hospitals to nursing talent.

Nurses may also choose to honor one another in simple but meaningful ways. “Last year for Nurses Week, I discussed my nursing journey via daily Facebook posts and, in each one, highlighted a nurse or two who mentored me through that specific period of my career,” stated Dr. Jamil Norman, academic coordinator for Walden University’s RN-BSN program. “I think this is a great way to reflect on your career and honor those who helped along the way. My favorite thing to get from others on Nurses Day are cards from my previous students or social media shoutouts with old pictures!”

Everyone in the health care community and patient community seems to agree on one key factor about Nurses Day this year: It’s more important than ever to show love and appreciation to nurses after the harrowing year everyone has experienced with the pandemic.

“This past year has been extremely challenging. Burnout isn’t new to the nursing field, but this pandemic has exacerbated it. Rather than focusing on hardships, I would like to acknowledge all of the nurses who are here and committed to the cause”, said Morgan Robinson, a nurse at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“As nurses, we are doing our best to prevail in the hardest of circumstances… We are still human and often shield our emotions when we encounter unexpected circumstances. A simple ‘thank you’ and ‘I see you’ goes a long way!” she continued. “Imagine what the world would be like without nurses. … Who would carry out orders, advocate for patients or watch closely for changes and updates? Nurses do these things every day because nursing is truly an act of the heart.”