Earlier this year, I asked a group of nurses what gifts doctors could give that would help them know they are appreciated. There were hundreds of comments that included many I expected: Food (pizza, chocolate, cake, tacos, bourbon, Starbucks, healthy snacks), pens, cash, and/or gift cards for all shifts.
There were some interesting “high end” ideas: Massages or a massage chair. Trips. Cars. Stethoscopes.
Some still make me shake my head and cry:
“Don’t yell at us.” “Talk to us nicely.” “If we do make a mistake and you feel it needs to be addressed, please do it in a way that is respectful, don’t chew us a new body opening in the hall or nurses’ station in front of God and everybody.”
“No verbal or sexual abuse.”
“Recognize me as a person.”
“Talk to me. All the Dr’s at my office don’t even say hello to us. They don’t eat lunch with us. It’s as if they don’t even see us.”
“Once a doctor told me I was a great nurse. It will remain the nicest heartfelt thing a doctor has ever done for me.”
“I could count on one hand the number of times I heard a meaningful thanks from a doctor or an administrator.” Wow. Just wow!
Just a simple thanks and respect were clearly the top-two gifts asked for.
Honest personalized respectful look me in my eyes, call me by my name, appreciation and thanks for the big and little things and jobs well done given all year round — not just for one day or one week.
I know I can’t express these two to most nurses in person. I wish I could at least handwrite a (yes, miraculously legible) personalized note to the majority, but that’s not possible either. The best I can do is to have you please imagine that the following words are coming from doctors (and other team members) you know as I express this about and to the hundreds of nurses that I have had had the privilege of working with over the year.
Thanks for being you and for being the hands, heart, voice, and face of medical care.
Thanks for the care you have given to our mutual patients. Special
Thanks for taking care of my family and friends as if they were your own. I can’t express what that meant to my relatives and to me and how it helped in the healing process.
Thanks for the times you went all out to help turn around a patient trying to die in front of you.
Thanks for the kindness and care you continued to give to patients that had just died (and their family and friends).
Thanks for helping some patients abide by their wishes to not prolong their life heroically and for helping them die peacefully.
Thanks for all the times you saved my butt that I knew about. And even more for the times I never knew about.
Thanks for cleaning the butts of more patients than you ever dreamed you would.
Thanks for helping give some dignity to those who are at your mercy to take care of their basic needs.
Thanks for taking overflowing bedpans to the dirty utility room – often while needing to hold your breath.
Thanks for holding your legs tightly together and keeping on caring when you really needed to empty in the bathroom.
Thanks for staying over to complete your care when you didn’t need to and may not even have gotten paid for doing so.
Thanks for telling me/us that I/we did a great job when I/we did.
Thanks for telling me/us that I/we did the best we could when death had defeated our efforts.
Thanks for taking verbal, physical, and emotional abuse from patients who didn’t realize what they were doing — and even more so from the ones that did.
Thanks for turning angry patients and family into understanding people.
Thanks for being there when I had a down day.
Thanks for thanking and respecting me at the times when I really needed it.
Thanks for needed (group) hugs.
Thanks for all the times you’ve made me laugh.
Thanks for sharing your valued opinions and especially for sharing your gut feelings.
Thanks for quietly telling me when I have two different shoes on or when my zipper is down.
Thanks for taking care of our patients when their severity of illness and/or volume overwhelmed us … and not complaining about it in the heat of the battle.
Thanks for praying.
Thanks for genuine heartfelt acceptance of me as a doctor and as a person.
Thanks for saying kind things about and backing me up to others (when true).
Thanks for all the food that you have shared with me.
Thanks for the pens and stethoscopes you have loaned me.
Thanks for being a spokesperson and translating my words for patients, families, and questioning callers.
Thanks for helping fill out reams of paperwork.
Thanks for teaching me so much about medicine and about life.
Thanks for your patience with my crazy quirks.
These words may have started while thinking about nurses, but they are also for everyone reading this that are not nurses.
Your kindness towards myself and others may have seemed unnoticed and unappreciated … but they were.
I am sorry for all the times I didn’t thank you or show you the respect you deserve — especially when you really needed it.
Have a great day. Week. Month. Year. Life.
Thanks again! Spread that powerful, simple word along.
Joe Bocka is an emergency physician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com