Ideas for Nurses Week: Celebrate with 8 Unique Nurses Week Ideas and Activities

by | Mar 12, 2024 | Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

ideas for nurses week

It’s that time of year again for nurses in administration… it’s time to think of ideas for nurses week.

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

Budgets are getting smaller. Nurses are working more, with fewer staff, and constantly experiencing 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 overtime hours, staying late, and last-minute schedule changes are merely recognized with a cookie platter delivered to the unit on their day off and a water bottle with the hospital’s logo.

No wonder some of these items made the list of the Worst 22 Nurses Week Gifts Ever.

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, but when you turn Nurses Week into Mandatory Volunteer Week, it feels like all the overtime isn’t enough. 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 a bonus to the facility if your Nurse’s Week recognition and efforts 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 only made the staff feel recognized and appreciated but did so in a way that reignited their passion for their job?

No matter what your team chooses to do to celebrate the nursing staff, you will not make everyone happy. It is impossible to do so, especially for large workforces. Consider the 80/20 rule and select things to do that will make most people happy. Try to select a few options so that if someone can’t enjoy one because of scheduling, there is another option.

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Ideas for Nurses Week Celebrations

Over the years, I’ve learned what doesn’t work for Nurse’s Week.

Painted rocks that say, “You Rock!” = bad

Any gear with the hospital logo all over it = bad

Nursing is a unique workforce because it is round-the-clock shift work. Therefore, celebrations that require attendance are received negatively because only a select few can benefit. These are likely the day shift nurses who can leave the unit for a while and are often the more experienced unit leaders.

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Let’s go through different ways to celebrate and appreciate your nursing workforce. We’ll go through a poorly-received option followed by a way to upgrade it so the staff can enjoy it.

Hospital Take-Over

Don’t schedule 10 “Happy Nurses Week” posts on social media, interview with the local news outlet, and put a large “Happy Nurses Week” sign by the patient entrance and in all of the waiting rooms. That seems more about PR than recognizing staff.

Put a sign by the employee entrance and decorate it if you can. Decorate the cafeteria and coffee shops, and offer nursing staff a special 10% off (or another discount) for the whole week. Put signs in staff elevators and bathrooms.

Email all non-clinical staff to encourage them to verbalize “Happy Nurses Week” when they speak directly to nurses. Have the main operator answer and add “Happy Nurses Week” to their standard phone greeting for the week.

Ideas For Nurses Week Wellness

Don’t schedule chair massages. Only a few staff members will benefit (those who are there that day AND available to step away to get one), and many people are in work mode during a typical day at the hospital, so getting a massage in your scrubs feels… gross.

Instead ➡️ Partner with local businesses to get discounts or vouchers for wellness services like facials, massages, basic haircuts, nails, and other spa treatments at local businesses.

Nurses can go on their day off and enjoy it, and you’ll be fostering connections with the local community (that’s probably part of your hospital mission anyway!).

Leadership Rounding

One of the common ideas for Nurses Week is for the leadership team to round on the nursing units. Often, these leaders are in their business attire and walk quickly through the unit as if they’re being given a tour. While they can look very friendly, they also are unapproachable.

Nursing staff are in scrubs that are likely dirty, probably working so hard they’re sweating a bit, and they can feel a bit out of place with executives in perfectly pressed suits, collared shirts, dresses, and high heels. It ends up feeling more like a parade going through your unit than a time for a leader to see what it’s like for staff.

Instead ➡️ Create a schedule of leaders within each service line to spend a few hours shadowing a clinical unit leader. Have them borrow a set of scrubs from the OR and go from room to room with a unit’s charge nurse.

These need to be people from non-clinical areas of the hospital who make decisions that impact clinical areas. I’m not talking about nurse managers or directors. People in these leadership positions often know what being a nurse is like.

I’m talking about:

  1. Hospital Administrator or CEO: The top executive responsible for overall hospital operations, including strategic planning, financial management, and policy implementation.
  2. Chief Operating Officer (COO): Manages day-to-day operations, including facilities, support services, and quality improvement initiatives.
  3. Chief Financial Officer (CFO): This person is responsible for the hospital’s financial planning, budgeting, and fiscal management.
  4. Chief Information Officer (CIO): This position leads the development and implementation of information technology systems and strategies to support healthcare operations.
  5. Quality Improvement Director/Manager: Ensure healthcare services meet or exceed established quality standards and benchmarks.
  6. Risk Management Director/Manager: Evaluates and mitigates potential risks to patients, staff, and the hospital through policies and protocols.
  7. Human Resources Director/Manager: Manages staffing, recruitment, training, and employee relations for the hospital.
  8. Patient Experience Director/Manager: Focuses on improving patients’ and their families’ overall experience and satisfaction.
  9. Supply Chain Director/Manager: Manages the procurement, inventory, and distribution of medical supplies and equipment.
  10. Facilities Director/Manager: Oversees the hospital’s maintenance, security, and physical infrastructure.
  11. Compliance Officer: Ensures the hospital adheres to legal and regulatory requirements, including healthcare laws and privacy regulations.
  12. Health Information Management (HIM) Director/Manager: This position manages the collection, storage, and retrieval of patient health records and ensures compliance with legal requirements.
  13. Case Management Director/Manager: Coordinates patient care and ensures patients receive appropriate services across the healthcare continuum.

Upgrade ⬆️ to a new level: Host a town hall-style panel (virtual and in-person) for the administrators to share what they learned or how their perception of nursing has changed.

Leverage your media department to take photos and share them on your organization’s internal website, external new sources, and social media.

Blessing of the Hands

Another very popular idea for nurses’ week is Blessing of the Hands, where chaplaincy services make rounds to units and offer to bless the hands of caregivers. It’s not for everyone, but it would be particularly impactful for many.

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

Consider ensuring multiple rounds with the chaplaincy staff so everyone can get a chance. It would also be phenomenal to make rounds for the night shift. The chaplaincy office can also use this time to connect with staff and remind them that they are not there only to support people from a religious perspective. Many nurses are unaware of the extensive training hospital chaplains must go through, specifically their training in helping people through crisis.


Calling All Therapy Dogs!

I wish I could explain how much nurses love therapy 🐶 animals. Now, not everyone is an animal person, but so many of us are. Schedule the therapy animal team to make many rounds during Nurses Week.

Upgrade ➡️ Get special Happy Nurses Week bandanas for the pups/animals to wear

Double upgrade ➡️Hand out “I pet the therapy dog” stickers

Triple upgrade ➡️ Get the dogs to give the chair massages

Specific Thank Yous

Encourage managers to identify the nurses who have been very accommodating with schedules, precept many nurses, work overtime, and go above and beyond. Buy real thank you cards and ask the managers to handwrite a note. You can even give them ideas of what to say.

Ideas For Nurses Week Thank You Note – Sample Copy

Dear ________,

I wanted to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude for the remarkable dedication and selflessness you consistently bring to our team.

Your willingness to pick up overtime shifts, switch schedules to accommodate others, and devote precious time to training our new staff has not gone unnoticed. Your actions embody the true essence of a team player and serve as a shining example to us all.

I appreciate who you are and what you do, and I’m so grateful you are on our team.



A way to upgrade this ➡️ Have a short chat with some of the main physicians and APPs who work with your nurses. Ask them which nurses they’ve had really good experiences with, and see if they can tell you more about what happened and why the nurse sticks out in their mind. Take notes of what they say, and later follow up in person with those specific nurses about the positive things that were said about them.

Another option ➡️ Buy a large stack of thank-you notes and ask the medical staff to write one to a nurse they’ve worked with. An attending physician could facilitate this during rounds with residents, as it would take less than 5 minutes for all of them to write a note quickly. The attending can give the stack back to the nurse manager to distribute.

Or, the nurse manager could send an email for quick responses.

Ideas For Nurses Sample Thank You Email Copy

Hello physicians and APPs,

Nurse’s Week is next week and we wanted to let the nurses on [your unit] to feel appreciated. Please reply to this email and share 1-2 sentences about a specific nurse on the unit that you’ve had a really positive experience with.

It could be as simple as:

  • Sarah was really kind to a patient of mine
  • Mark caught something early that probably really made a difference
  • Lisa asked really good questions which enabled us to get a complex patient discharged quickly

Thank you so much for your assistance in this small but very meaningful gesture for our nurses.


Unit Nurse Manager

Finally, if you’ve got some super high-performers on your unit, consider giving them a nursing book with a handwritten note on the inside:

“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, Unit Manager”

Now, I anticipate some pushback from people who think we should give everyone the same thing. However, if you do not recognize high performers and reward them for their effort and dedication, you give them no incentive to continue.

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Unit-Based Nurses Week Awards

Many hospital systems will give large nursing awards during Nurses Week. This is great! I think Nurses Week is the best time for this. However, many nurses will not get recognized. Nurses who get these major awards have been at the organization for many years and have pretty stellar accomplishments. To enable more people to get some love, consider unit-based awards with a much lower bar to get a little acknowledgment.

These would be light-hearted and fun to give during a staff meeting. The nurse manager could decide on the winners, or you could use a Google Form for your unit to cast ballots, which would be fun.

Here are some award ideas. Each could include a novelty prize or a small pin that matches the award name that they can add to their badge.

  1. Energizer Bunny 🐰 Award: For the nurse who always seems to have boundless energy and never stops moving. The prize is a pack of Energizer batteries.
  2. Nurse Charming 👑 Award: Given to the nurse with the most convincing and charming bedside manner who has a knack for getting disengaged patients to participate in their care plan actively. The price could be a charm bracelet.
  3. Sleuth 🕵️‍♀️ Award: For the nurse with exceptional detective skills in finding missing supplies or solving minor mysteries on the unit. The prize could be a magnifying glass.
  4. Captain 👩‍✈️ Calm Award: Presented to the nurse who maintains their cool under pressure, no matter what the situation, awarded with a novelty captain’s hat.
  5. Master of Multitasking 🤹‍♀️ Award: For the nurse who can juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities with ease, naturally winning a min set of juggling pins.
  6. Quick Feet 👟 Award: Given to the nurse who is somehow always the first person in the room in an emergency, awarded with a track medal with a shoe with wings
  7. Coffee ☕️ Connoisseur Award: For the nurse with an uncanny ability to brew the perfect cup of coffee, essential for those long shifts.
  8. The Voice 🎤 Award: Presented to the nurse whose voice has the magical power to calm even the most agitated patients (and staff!). The prize could be a coffee cup from The Voice TV show.

Remember to present these awards in a light-hearted and respectful manner, ensuring that they contribute positively to the team’s morale and camaraderie.

Miscellaneous Ideas For Nurses Week

  • Stock the breakroom fridge for the week with some Costco buys like a large pack of energy drinks, sparkling water, popsicles, and energy bars
  • Stock the staff coffee area with nicer coffee and creamer options
  • Schedule a deep clean and decor update for the breakroom
  • Have hospital volunteers clean and tidy the nurses stations, med rooms, and supply rooms
  • Update one of the unit boards to have staff photos and accomplishments
  • Things that are wonderful to have at a nurse’s station and/or break room ➡️ Febreeze, good hand lotion, gum, mints, and real facial tissue
  • Host a trivia luncheon: Enable staff to join virtually from their units or in person
  • Host a virtual escape room challenge: The unit that gets through it the fastest will get a larger prize

Ideas For Nurses Week: At The End Of The Day/Shift

Nurses really want to be appreciated, and I hope these ideas for Nurses Week will help you come up with a great way to celebrate them. They want to know that their overtime, expertise, and care do not go unnoticed. A manager walking around the unit, expressing gratitude, and specifically speaking about contributions that a unique individual makes to the team goes much farther than dropping off a pizza in the break room.

Nurses (like anyone) crave connection, acknowledgment, and gratitude. Don’t underestimate the power of small encouragement – especially from leadership.

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    Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

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