The best gifts frequently are the smallest.
Nurses and the nursing profession enjoy many expressions of gratitude nationally and internationally. The World Health Organization celebrates International Nurses Day and the American Nurses Association celebrates National Nurses Week, which in 2020, extended the week-long celebration to a month. Other celebrations held annually include National Nurses Day, National Student Nurses Day, and National School Nurse Day. Global, national, and state nursing associations, along with our local employers, all find ways to offer their thanks and praise. Celebrations occurring during the pandemic gave individual nurses and our profession a much-needed boost.
The rigors and risks experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a period when nurses, and others, were being hailed as heroes. Signs pronouncing, “Heroes work here,” appeared on hospital grounds all over the United States. These grand gestures were important, valuable, and appreciated. As I wrote several years ago, expressing gratitude benefits both the presenter and the recipient. It generates the tidal wave of appreciation recognizing nurses on a large scale. On a smaller scale, consider another form of gratitude that I use and maybe you could, too.
It’s based on a form of gratitude expressed by the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Did you know she was a great writer of thank-you letters? When she became ill after her selfless work during the Crimean War, she spent much of her remaining life bedridden. Many say that during this time she accomplished her best work. She stayed connected with the nurses she trained and inspired them no matter what odds they faced. She wrote personalized notes and sent them by “runners to hospitals to thank individual nurses who were having trouble at home or who were struggling in some way with their work.” A bouquet of flowers accompanied the note.
It seems to me the most powerful expressions of gratitude are those that are personal, either spoken or in writing, from one person to another. Do you feel uplifted by a patient or their family member who takes the initiative to thank you for the care and understanding you provided? Of course, you do. When you’re having a tough day, would you feel better if a colleague told you how grateful they are for you and your hard work? I know I do.
Have you heard of the concept that everyone needs a hug from time to time? The premise and the promise is that it’s therapeutic. Some of the most powerful antidotes to a challenging day can be a simple hug or a small thank you. Florence Nightingale knew that a sincere thank you, an expression of gratitude or concern, and a “bunch of flowers” were potent and effective ways to support nurses on the front lines.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, please look around you, wherever you work. You can express gratitude by finding those who would benefit from a thank you, a comment about doing a good job, or a few words of encouragement. Flowers are optional.
Lillee Gelinas, DNP, RN, CPPS, FAAN
Graham C. A Nightingale’s thank you. Doing Good Leeds. July 7, 2020. doinggoodleeds.org.uk/blog/a-nightingales-thank-you