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It’s that time of year again for nurses in administration…

Time to think up ideas for Nurses Week.

For those of you that let out a weary sigh, I feel you. I used to plan those activities and it was not an easy endeavor at all. It can become so burdensome that turns into just another thing to mark as “done” for the year.

Budgets are getting smaller.  Nurses are working more, with less staff, and constantly going through change. They’re tired.  Every year it seems the expectation for the celebration of nurses week increases as nurses become wearier, but the budget to devote to a great celebration decreases.

Nurses end up feeling short changed, as another year goes by when their hours of overtime, staying late, and switching their schedule last minute is merely recognized with a cookie platter delivered to the unit on their day off, and a water bottle with a logo that rubbed off in about a week.

It’s no wonder some of these items made the list of the Worst 22 Nurses Week Gifts Ever.

Nurses are starting to plan their own celebration entirely, which misses the point. Call me crazy, but I believe the people who should be planning Nurses Week are those in administration whose entire hospital operation completely depends upon nursing care.  You know, all those people who say they could never do what we do, it’s time for them to say thank you in a genuine and meaningful way.

I firmly believe that nurses should not plan their celebration. That’s like planning your own birthday party.

Not cool.

Nurses don’t want water bottles. They don’t want gear with the hospital logo plastered all over it. They don’t want cookies or cake. Patients and families bring in enough treats, so dropping off a plate of cookies isn’t really making anyone feel special. It’s just another thing to avoid as you attempt to be healthy. Nurses also enjoy volunteering in general, but when you turn Nurses Week into Mandatory Volunteer Week, it feels like all the overtime isn’t enough and now you have to volunteer on top of it.

Nurses are people too. And what do people get excited about?

People get excited about things that foster a sense of identity and pride, nostalgia, are cool, or provide value.

It’s an added bonus to the facility if your Nurse’s Week recognition and efforts also rejuvenate the staff. Instead of dropping off some flash drives with the hospital logo on them and a bucket of candy, what if you provided something that not made the staff feel recognized and appreciated, but did so in a way that reignited their passion for their job?

Ideas for Nurses Week Celebrations

Below is my sample list of cost-effective ideas for Nurses Week. In addition to these, I suggest getting a Happy Nurses Week banner or two printed and placed at the hospital’s main entrance as well as where the employees walk in. Cost-savings idea: don’t get the year put on it and re-use it annually.

Mellow-Out Monday

  • Hire a few people to go from unit to unit to give 5 chair minute massages, with a nurse to relieve people as they took turns.
  • Get a few essential oil diffusers and diffuse lavender in nurses stations

Walk a Mile in My Danskos Tuesday

  • Schedule the CEO and entire board of VP’s to put on some scrubs for 6 hours and follow nurses
  • Cost effective
  • Involves those who should be most enthusiastic: non-nursing leaders
  • Leverage your media department to take photos and share on your organization’s internal website, external new sources, and social media
  • During this time, schedule Blessing of the Hands (where chaplaincy services makes rounds to units and offers to bless the hands of caregivers). This is profoundly meaningly for many and it would be incredibly impactful if this occurred in front of administration.
It’s that time of year again for nurses in administration. Time to think up ideas for Nurses Week. Let's explore some ideas and what value they provide.

The Sacred Heart University College of Nursing’s annual Blessing of the Hands ceremony in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek

Wagging Wednesday

  • Calling all therapy dogs!
  • Schedule all therapy doggies (and any other therapy animals) to make multiple rounds on all of the units
  • Bonus if you can get special Happy Nurses Week bandanas for the pups to wear
  • Double bonus if you can get some “I pet the therapy dog” stickers to be handed out
  • Triple bonus if you can just get the dogs to give the chair massages


 Thank You Thursday

  • Have every physician and their support staff hand write a thank you note to a nurse.
  • Cost-effective: you’re only out the $0.20 per thank you note
  • See which nurses have been picking up a lot of overtime, staying late, floating, or switching schedules and ask them to come to administration. Have a nursing administration sit them down and sincerely thank them for their efforts, and let them know it has not gone unnoticed. Provide a nursing book as a gift, and have that administrator hand-write a thank you inside the book. Something like:

“Sarah – I just want to thank you for all of the overtime you’ve picked up on the stroke unit. Nurses like you are why patients like coming to our hospital. We sincerely appreciate everything you do for the organization. Signed, the CNO”

  • Key point: it MUST be personalized, and not something mass-produced.

Flashback Friday

  • Have a special award or recognition for people who have been nurses for over 30 years
  • Make sure nursing administration participates!
  • Have a place set up in the cafeteria or some obvious place and display old school medical and nursing equipment
  • Take photos and share on your social media and internal/external sites

ideas for nurses week

Nurses Week To-Do List

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A virtual conference

Consider sending your staff, or a portion, to a virtual nursing conference. It’s a fraction of the cost of physically sending someone and functions as a phenomenal and comprehensive Nurses Week gift. Each day provides a new topic, discussion, and CE’s. You can schedule a viewing on campus, or staff can access it at home on their own time.

A great virtual conference is The Art of Nursing Nurse’s Week Celebration created by Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA RN. You get 12 30-minute sessions from nursing leaders, a PDF booklet for participants, staff get CE’s (staff love CE’s!), and other bonus goodies.

Click here to check it out, and let Elizabeth’s Art of Nursing be your Nurses Week celebration.

If your hospital doesn’t do anything for Nurses Week

Don’t let it just pass by! Schedule a massage for yourself, take a PTO day, bring your favorite foods for lunch, get some new scrubs, get a good nurse book, go to a conference, or buy a pass for The Art of Nursing virtual conference yourself.

Take some time for yourself – you are valued, even if you’re not being recognized by your employer.

What are some of the best things that you’ve received during Nurses Week? What worked, what didn’t? Were you a part of one of the 49 organizations that used the virtual conference, the Art of Nursing – what’d you think?