The U.S. is facing a nursing shortage that could grow more severe as the effects of COVID-19 on front-line workers linger. The need for nurses to tackle health concerns related to the pandemic will likely place nurses in even greater demand.
One way to address the issues behind this gap in nursing care — which include nurse burnout and rapid turnover rates — is to provide greater support resources for nurses, according to the American Institutes for Research (AIR).
Americans recognize that the profession deserves that support. In an annual Gallup poll, Americans consistently rank nurses at the top regarding levels of professional ethics and honesty. In 2020, nursing earned its highest-ever score in these metrics: 89% of respondents ranked nurses as having high or very high honesty and ethical standards.
Bachelor’s programs for registered nurses, along with other nursing degree programs, are helping to promote the profession and address the nursing shortage — and nursing programs are experiencing increased enrollment overall, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). But what can patients and employers do to bolster these efforts and show appreciation for the role that nurses play in meeting the nation’s healthcare needs?
The good news is that displays of nurse appreciation can be as simple as a word of thanks.
Why Nurses Deserve More Appreciation
Nurses and other healthcare professionals play a critical role in patient care, assisting with a broad range of services, and nurse appreciation is just as critical.
Nurses’ Role in Outstanding Healthcare
In hospitals, for example, nurses help guide treatment from admission to discharge. The American Nurses Association (ANA) reports nurses can help reduce:
- Lengths of patient stays
- Patient mortality rates
- The number of preventable issues, including falls and infections
Nurses often work in situations that are difficult for patients and medical professionals alike, ensuring that those in their care receive treatment that is compassionate and as comfortable as possible. The value of healthcare workers such as nurses is never more pronounced than during times of crisis.
From natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes to human-caused tragedies such as plane crashes and terrorist attacks, nurses typically are at the heart of providing medical attention for the injured and ill during and after an event. COVID-19 is an example of a disaster with long-term, worldwide implications, for both those treating the illness and those suffering from it.
During COVID-19, nurses stepped up to provide care and support for patients and loved ones affected by the illness — often serving as the lone source of comfort for patients when safety protocols prevented their families from being with them in the hospital. Nurses have worked through the emotional toll of seeing patients suffer and through fears of becoming infected.
COVID-19’s Impact on Nurses
A 2018 American Journal of Medical Quality report predicted the registered nursing shortage could reach more than a half-million nationwide by 2030. An aging population and retirements in the nursing workforce are among the factors in the anticipated demand for registered nurses. Now COVID-19 burnout could play a role in further diminishing the number of nurses.
A 2021 study in Nursing Outlook, for example, found that nurses who treated COVID-19 patients in New York City reported elevated levels of depression and anxiety. The same study also highlighted the importance of showing support and appreciation: The nurses surveyed cited support from coworkers, family, and friends as helpful when navigating the difficulties of providing care during the pandemic.
Those displays of nurse appreciation don’t have to be costly. For example, a New Jersey nurse told People in 2021 that she files thank-you cards she receives from patients so she can look at them later, as a pick-me-up during tough situations.
How Patients Can Show Appreciation for Nurses
In the People story, an Iowa nurse encouraged patients to simply show patience and understanding — the simplest way to demonstrate nurse appreciation. These gestures cost nothing but often hold the most value to nurses, she said. Other ways patients can show appreciation for nurses’ efforts include:
- Organizing a thank-you card drive
- Providing snacks or coffee
- Planning meal delivery
For those who want to go above and beyond in showing their support for nurses, the following are some gifts to purchase to show appreciation:
- Restaurant or coffee shop gift cards
- Gel inserts for shoes
- Gift cards for massages
- Codes for online fitness or yoga sessions
How Employers Can Show Appreciation for Nurses
A 2020 Gallup survey also showed the impact COVID-19 could have on nurses in the workplace, with 78% of healthcare professionals indicating they believed the pandemic would have a negative or very negative effect at work.
Strategies employers can use to mitigate this negative impact and support nurses can be as simple as communicating more freely with staff about threats they face and procedures they’ll follow. Employers can more readily convene impromptu meetings about developments as they occur, and they can be more open about their expectations of employees.
Gallup and ANA shared additional suggestions for healthcare employers to show appreciation for nurses:
- Offering holistic support through staff recognition and counseling services
- Empowering nurses to help make decisions about addressing staffing concerns
- Promoting work-life balance by offering greater flexibility in scheduling
- Taking advantage of new partnerships and innovations to provide the tools needed for high-quality care
- Being accountable and transparent regarding organizational decisions and practices
The Impact of Nurse Appreciation
Through valuable services that range from rapid response during a health crisis to family support in trying conditions, nursing brings tremendous value to healthcare — and society overall. Eighty percent of registered nurses report that they believe their jobs are meaningful, according to PayScale, offering them the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.
Showing appreciation for this important work can help nurses overcome challenges they face, potentially lessening the chances for burnout and turnover and helping to address the nursing shortage.
Pursue Your Goals in This Important Profession
If you’re ready to lead the way in the critical and fulfilling work that nurses do — and help ensure adequate nurse staffing for the future — explore Maryville University’s online RN to BSN degree program and other online nursing degrees. You’ll get the foundation for pursuing a broad range of nursing roles with the convenience and flexibility of 100% online learning.
Discover how Maryville University’s online nursing programs can help you achieve your career goals.