Nursing Week starts today. Yes, on Friday. It’s always weird and weird because the last day, May 12, is supposed to be Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Plus, it’s a helpful reminder that nurses work long, often thankless hours on weekends and holidays.
To show their appreciation, many hospital managers will be giving out Nurses Weeks gifts. They are usually so ridiculously bad that they have become a running joke among nurses all over the world. It’s not that managers’ hearts aren’t in the right place. It’s just that their minds are somewhere in a vacuum trying to be more intelligent than grateful.
These are some of the stories my wife has heard during her years in the industry. One year, management handed out rocks with the words “you rock” written on them. Maybe this would be great if nurses had desks and needed paperweights, but in a hospital setting it makes almost no sense. Apparently this is a very popular idea that was passed on in some management course because it has been reported by nurses all over the world.
Another year, a staff member was handing out Starbursts. Sweets are always good, right? Nurses need that sugar rush, but it wasn’t like a pack of Starbursts. The staff member had just bought a roll, asked random nurses if they wanted one, and then said “Happy Nurses Week” if they took one. There was also a year when the management brought in someone to do massages. Again, this sounds a little sweet, but in practice, most nurses are a little worried about strangers touching them and spreading germs.
Oh, and it’s pretty common to give nurses things that are sold in the cafeteria like yogurt cups. My wife also reported that energy bars and other snacks are common, but it is very important to check expiration dates. Sometimes “gifts” double as “garbage disposal.”
Nurse Blake, a nurse who specializes in humor revolving around the industry, did an entire podcast about some of the worst gifts for nurses he’d seen at his job or been sent to him by fans. These include Play-doh (no idea), squirt guns (bold choice), and bread (not fancy bread. I just eat sliced bread).
“No matter where you are in the world, they are always in bad taste,” he says. “It started out very cute, but it’s not cute anymore.”
My least favorite has to be from this list on Nurse.org. It was about hanging a mirror with a note that said: “Look what a perfect nurse looks like.” How do you think that will make anyone busy with a real job feel anything other than anger?
It is not always a complete failure. My wife’s first year as a nurse, everyone got these cute travel bags that are perfect for when nurses have to stay overnight in the hospital in an emergency like a hurricane. As much as nurses complain when they receive pens as gifts, they always end up using them in the end. Markers attached to key chains are considerate because nurses usually have to special order them.
Mostly all nurses just want safe staffing ratios from their management. I can promise none of them need a craft project, old fashioned food, or a clever pun in the form of a trinket. This is not the time to be cute. These are busy people still dealing with a pandemic that has killed millions. A little more thought and a little less quirkiness would go a long way.