How to Show Your Appreciation on National Nurses Day

How to Properly Honor Your Favorite Nurse on National Nurses Day

Smiling nurse talking to doctor in hospital corridor
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National Nurses Day began as a way to honor nurses who dedicate themselves to caring for others. In 1974, President Richard Nixon proclaimed a "National Nurse Week" and in 1981, nurses in New Mexico initiated a resolution to have May 6 declared "National Recognition Day for Nurses."

National Nurses Day 

The American Nurses Association (ANA) promoted the proposal and in 1982, the United States Congress designated May 6 to be "National Recognition Day for Nurses." President Ronald Reagan signed the proposal, making it official.

It was later expanded by the ANA Board of Directors in 1990 to a week-long celebration (May 6 to 12) known as "National Nurses Week."

Your nurse has undoubtedly been an important part of your life. Whether she's been your nurse for a few days or a few years, she's cared about your health and comfort and probably offered you a listening ear or soothing touch. National Nurses Day and National Nurses Week is a great time to show your nurse how much his or her care is appreciated.

Ways to Show Your Appreciation

Nurses generally aren't allowed, either professionally or morally, to accept large gifts from their patients. Not surprisingly, most nurses wouldn't even want an extravagant gift. Some of the best ways to show you appreciate your nurse are simple and cost little to no money. Here are ten ideas to get you started:

1. Make or Buy a Thank You Card: I've seen patients go about this simply, with a handwritten note jotted down on some stationary laying around the house.

I've also seen a card that a patient made with a picture of him and his nurse glued on bright pink cardstock. However you go about it, a handwritten note of thanks is a meaningful gift.

2. Give Flowers: National Nurses Day and Week always fall in the middle of spring. It's an excellent time to pick some fresh flowers from your garden as a gift.

You can wrap the flowers in brown paper and tie with colorful ribbon or drop them into an old vase you have lying around.

3. Give Fresh Fruit: Spring is also a great time to give fruit as a gift. Apricots, mangos, strawberries, and pineapple are all in season. If you have any fruit trees or plants, pick them from your garden; otherwise, you or a family member can pick up some fresh fruit from your local farmer's market or grocery store. You can put a few pieces of fruit in a basket with a pretty ribbon or simply place them in a grocery bag.

4. Bake Cookies: What nurse doesn't enjoy some fresh, home baked cookies? Don't fret if you don't have the energy to make them yourself; store bought cookies won't be turned down! You can also ask a family member to bake something for you. Once again, you can go all out and place the cookies in a basket or gift bag, or simply place them on a paper plate with plastic wrap.

5. Burn a CD of Their Favorite Music: This one might be a bit more time consuming, but if you've had conversations about music and perhaps share an interest in Motown, burning some of your nurse's favorite tunes, or songs you think he or she will like, is a thoughtful gesture of thanks.

6. Give a Pack of Pens: Does this sound silly to you? Truth is, nurses lose their pens all the time. I'm constantly digging through my bag looking for a pen and it's so frustrating when I realize I've lost my last one. You can buy one pen that's especially nice or a pack of multiple inexpensive pens. Either way, your nurse will appreciate the thought and think of you every time he or she finds a pen easily.

7. Give the Gift of Nursing Humor: Nurses have a humor all their own and products and websites are dedicated to showcasing it. Visit The Journal of Nursing Jocularity to find some nursing humor.

You could even buy your nurse a year's subscription to the magazine. Around Nurses Week, you'll also find all kinds of humorous cards, bookmarks, and stationery made just for nurses at your local card and gift store.

8. Donate to a Charity in Their Honor: This is a great way to honor your nurse and help a great cause. If you have breast cancer, for example, or know that someone in your nurse's family does, a small donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation honors her and helps many others.

9. Buy a Subscription to a Nursing Magazine: One-way nurses keep up to date on their knowledge is by reading nursing journals. Some popular choices include the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), the RN Journal, and Advance for Nurses. A year's subscription to a nursing magazine typically costs under $20 and Advance for Nurses is actually free.

10. Observe Your Nurse's Style and Get Creative: If you notice your nurse always wears funky headbands or hair clips, keep your eyes open for something she will like next time you are at the store or get creative and make one yourself. 

Remember, you don't have to go out of your way to make Nurses Day or Week special for your nurse. If you don't have the energy to make anything homemade or to get to a store to buy something small, don't fret. A simple gesture to show your appreciation can make your nurse's day -- or week!