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Campaign reveals laughable gifts given to nurses by employers

Rocks, badges and lollipops are among the ‘rewards’ given during the pandemic that feel more like a slap in the face than a grateful gift

Rocks, badges and lollipops are among the ‘rewards’ given during the pandemic that feel more like a slap in the face than a grateful gift

When it comes to showing gratitude to nurses, many managers are missing the mark with well-intentioned but inappropriate staff gifts.

Water bottles that aren’t allowed to be used, thank you badges for working through the pandemic, and slogan mugs when there aren’t any tea and coffee-making facilities are among them. While some are mildly amusing, a misjudged gift can seem thoughtless and will sometimes leave staff feeling patronised or offended.

Ill-thought-out gifts can cause offence

It’s a problem that is common

Rocks, badges and lollipops are among the ‘rewards’ given during the pandemic that feel more like a slap in the face than a grateful gift

Photo of a nurse holding a large rock which says
‘Oh, you shouldn’t have’: rocks with jokey slogans are among the patronising rewards given to nurses

When it comes to showing gratitude to nurses, many managers are missing the mark with well-intentioned but inappropriate staff gifts.

Water bottles that aren’t allowed to be used, thank you badges for working through the pandemic, and slogan mugs when there aren’t any tea and coffee-making facilities are among them. While some are mildly amusing, a misjudged gift can seem thoughtless and will sometimes leave staff feeling patronised or offended.

Ill-thought-out gifts can cause offence

It’s a problem that is common across healthcare settings. To mark Nurses Week in the US, American nursing platform connectRN launched its #NursesWeakGifts campaign this week after its survey of nurses revealed an array of terrible gifts that they had received, including a lollipop 'for days that suck' and pet rocks that say ‘you rock’.

So why are some management teams getting it so wrong, and how can they fix it?

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust’s associate chief nurse Paul Jebb said that a thoughtless approach to gift giving can lead to bad feeling among nurses who see it as a misunderstanding of their day-to-day job.

‘Well-meaning gifts need to be thought through and not be off the cuff. Otherwise it’s tokenism rather than genuinely helpful to morale or well-being,’ he said.

‘If a gift enhances well-being, then it’s worthwhile, but it can be hard to get it right for everyone in the team. That’s why vouchers are always great, as people can choose what they spend the money on and get something useful or special for themselves.’

Missing the mark – old face cream, stale biscuits and leftover sandwiches

Photo of freebie hotel toiletries
Hotel toiletries don’t cut it
Picture: iStock

Nursing Standard asked readers on social media about the most peculiar and pointless gifts they had been given by management.

‘We were once given a packet of out-of-date biscuits each,’ one mental health nurse said. ‘I’m pretty sure they were old ones meant for inpatients that hadn’t been used and were going soft at the back of a cupboard. Not much of a thank you.’

Nurses on Facebook recalled occasions when managers had given staff a Mars bar and old face cream, along with hotel toiletries.

Others received badges, books that explained how staff make sure they take ‘Vitamin G’ for gratitude every day, or were provided with spaces to relax that they didn’t have time to visit.

‘Badges during a pandemic from the government is about top of my list. They even had badges you could buy – hopefully no one actually did,’ nurse Mary Lester said on Facebook.

A pay rise would be a more appropriate way to reward nurses

'I mean, come on, badges, like we are eight years old? Most of us aren’t even allowed to wear badges on our uniforms because of infection control, but of course the government doesn’t know that. A pay rise could have been a better way to reward staff.'

Nurse Sandra Carney added: ‘We used to get gifted leftover sandwiches from the kitchen during the height of the pandemic, which I referred to as ‘the last supper’. They were grim.’

One nurse told Nursing Standard how their trust set up a cafe in the car park for staff to relax and take a break, but no one had time to visit as they were too busy.


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