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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Meaningful Ways People Are Saying Thank You to Nurses

From making protective gear to delivering special surprises, people are going out of their way to show their appreciation for these dedicated health care workers.

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thank you nurses thank you healthcare workers covid19Courtesy Lisseth DeGracia

You can make a big difference to a nurse

There are nearly three million nurses in the United States. Thousands of nurses and doctors have been infected by COVID-19 to date, and dozens have tragically died. These brave men and women are working hard on the front lines of this pandemic, and it’s important to let them know that they’re loved and supported.

Lisseth DeGracia is one such nurse. She traveled from her home in Minneapolis to New York City to help patients in one of the states hardest hit by coronavirus. “This has given me a whole new appreciation for my profession. Nurses are just incredible,” she says. Another thing that’s keeping her going through her shifts, which are physically and emotionally tough? The outpouring of support and gratitude she’s received from New Yorkers. “Everyone is so appreciative—anywhere you go with scrubs on, everyone thanks you. A little boy yelled, ‘Thank you, nurse!’ out of his bedroom window and offered me snacks yesterday. It made my whole day,” she says.

Her heartwarming story is one of many. We rounded up the best, most inspirational ways people around the country are thanking nurses for their hard work and selfless dedication to caring for others.

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thank you nurses facemasksCourtesy Natalie Noall

I’m making headbands to help nurses’ ears

Masks are essential for everyone right now, but if you’ve worn one for longer than an hour, you know how uncomfortable they can get. Now imagine how it is for nurses, who are wearing them all day long; some have even reported getting sores from where the elastic rubs. Bailey Noall, 12, found an ingenious solution, inspired by a family friend who is a nurse. With the help of the girls in her youth group at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Arvada, Colorado, they started making headbands with buttons to attach to the masks, making them more comfortable for nurses to wear.

“I got a sewing machine for Christmas, and I’m learning how to sew. Sewing headbands is a great way to start, and I’m serving others at the same time,” the middle schooler says. “Kids my age can’t do too much right now, but this good way for me to help the nurses who are helping other people and tell them thank you.” So far, their church group has made hundreds of masks and headbands to donate to local hospitals. Don’t miss these other uplifting stories of neighbors helping during coronavirus that will inspire you to do the same.

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thank you medical workersCourtesy Crank and Boom

I’m bringing ice cream to hospitals

What better way to boost morale than with fresh, handmade ice cream? Toa Green, 38, of Lexington, Kentucky, is the owner of the Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream Lounge and decided to create six new flavors to give to nurses at local hospitals. To inject a little humor, she named some of the new flavors after Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s popular catchphrases from his daily COVID-19 news briefings. For example, “Y’all Can’t BEE Doing That” is a tasty flavor made with homemade honeycomb candy that reminds people to stick with social distancing. “Our nurses are the frontline health care heroes, and I want them to know that they aren’t alone and that their community is grateful for all they are doing,” Green says. So far, she’s treated more than 600 health care workers. Here’s how people are taking their businesses virtual during coronavirus.

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thank you nursesCourtesy SCAD

I drew a chalk mural

Local muralist Kipper Millsap, 36, of Savannah, Georgia, decided to put his artistic talents to good use, creating “lifeline,” a chalk art piece in honor of local nurses. Art is a powerful tool for expressing all kinds of emotions that may be hard to put into words. His artwork is showcased as part of the SCAD Sidewalk Art Festival, a local tradition that dedicated itself to thanking health care workers this year. “My piece is to thank them for their service, work, helping others, and lifting people up,” he says. “Hopefully this will help lift their spirits and communicate thoughts of hope, positivity, and love that we are desperate for in these difficult times.” You’ll love these 21 moving photos of kindness in the time of coronavirus.

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housing nurses Best Western® Hotels & ResortsCourtesy Best Western Hotels & Resorts

I’m housing nurses

“Watching this pandemic get worse, my family and I knew we had to find a way to help our community and particularly our nurses. This is something close to my heart because in addition to being a hotel owner, I’m also a nurse and recognize firsthand the incredible sacrifice they are making,” says Shradha Patel, 28, a registered nurse and owner of SureStay Plus by Best Western in Coralville, Iowa. One thing nurses desperately need is housing so that they don’t risk bringing the virus home to their families. Patel offered up rooms at her hotel and shuttles to and from the hospital—all for free. “I wanted to say thank you in any way I could, and this is the least I could do,” she explains.

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Simran Khiantani thank you nursesCourtesy Simran Khiantani

I made a tribute video

Simran Khiantani, 41, wanted to find a way to help her children adjust to their new normal—and to thank the health care workers putting their lives on the line. Since one of her children’s friends has a mother who’s a nurse at New York University Langone Hospital, Khiantani decided to create a tribute video from the whole third-grade class. In it, the kids express their gratitude to their classmate’s mother and the other nurses, while clapping at 7 p.m. every day in New York City’s thank-yous for essential workers. “These nurses are heroes. They are saving lives every day, and we want them to know we are so thankful,” Khiantani says.

If you’re a parent, check out these tips for keeping your kids calm during coronavirus from a guidance counselor (and mom of three).

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equipment coronavirus nurses thank youCourtesy Dan Buttery

I made safer protection equipment

Intubation—the process of inserting a tube down a patient’s throat in preparation to put them on a ventilator to help them breathe—can be risky for nurses, as it exposes them to a large amount of the virus in a very enclosed space. Dan Buttery, 39, of Lewiston, New York, heard about the problem and realized that he could use his design studio, Black Lab Metal Fab/DB Designs, to create “intubation boxes” to make the process safer for health care professionals.

“I designed a three-piece intubation box, which allows doctors and nurses to lift the box off a patient and not touch the contaminated area,” he explains. “Each intubation box can be cleaned and disinfected, so it can be reused.” He uses a computer-controlled machine to cut out the pieces and then assembles each one by hand. So far, he’s made more than 70 intubation boxes and donated them to local hospitals. “Nurses and doctors deserve to be safe, and this was a way I could help protect them and say thank you,” he says.

For a better idea of what health care workers are dealing with, read this firsthand account of what one respiratory therapist is seeing on the front lines.

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thank you medical workersCourtesy The Arlington of Naples

I’m sewing masks at my retirement home

At 101 years old, Ruth Anderson has now lived through two of the worst pandemics in modern history, surviving the Spanish flu as a baby and now coronavirus. She lives in The Arlington of Naples, a senior living community in Florida, and recognizing the need for protective gear in the community, she decided to sew masks.

“The nurses and other medical professionals here are like family to me, and I wanted to do something that would show my appreciation for how they have prioritized our safety and health through the COVID-19 outbreak,” Anderson says. “I turned my passion for sewing into a way of saying thank you by making masks. I have a huge stash of fabric, elastic, and a sewing machine, and they’re pretty easy to make in my spare time.” The centenarian has already made several dozen masks and has now recruited four other seniors to help make more. If you’d like to do the same, here’s how to make a DIY face mask.

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flamingos thank you nurseCourtesy Kara Larcome

I sent a flock of flamingos

“I had never seen anyone look that tired!” Maureen Crawford Hentz says of her nurse friend, whom she saw at the pharmacy one night a few weeks ago. “I knew she was working nonstop on the front lines, and I wanted to find a creative way to say thank you and lift her spirits.” She turned to her friends at the North Andover Women’s Club in Massachusetts for help. Each year, they do a fundraiser where, for a donation, they will “land” a flock of (plastic) flamingos on someone’s lawn, decorating their front yard. “She was so surprised and delighted,” Hentz says. “Those things are definitely in short supply lately, so I’m happy she got a tiny moment of fun.”

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packing suitcases for nurses thank you medical workersCourtesy Zero Halliburton

I packed and delivered suitcases filled with personal-care items

Nurses have traveled from all over the country to help the overburdened hospitals in New York City. To thank them for their sacrifice and make their stay a little more comfortable, New Yorker Tom Nelson decided to make self-care baskets. But he decided to go big, using bright yellow suitcases made by his company, Zero Halliburton, as the “baskets.”

“I picked yellow because that feels optimistic and joyful and would hopefully bring some sunshine,” Nelson says. He got friends to donate self-care items, including shaving products, soap, pillow spray, shower gel, and gel eye pads. To date, he and his team have assembled and donated more than 100 care cases to nurses who are staying in a nearby hotel. “This project made us feel less helpless in the middle of this devastating pandemic by letting us serve and thank nurses in a meaningful way,” he explains.

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thank you medical workersCourtesy KTLA 5 News

I organized a nightly neighborhood cheer and sing-along

“I have five immediate family members who are in the medical field, including nurses, so I know how hard they are working during this time,” says Rose Gonsalves, 56, of Torrance, California. To show her gratitude to the nurses and medical workers in her neighborhood, she organized a weekly ritual. “I put notes in the mailboxes throughout my neighborhood, asking everyone to step out on their front lawns—socially distanced, of course!—and sway with flashlights and sing along to classic hits every Sunday night at 8 p.m.,” Gonsalves says. “It’s been an incredible moment of the community spirit in Torrance. We want them to know that we appreciate their efforts and support them. It’s the least we could do!” Bonding with your neighbors is just one good reason to stop complaining about quarantine.

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Joelle Obsatz thank you nursesCourtesy Joelle Obsatz

I made meals and organized a neighborhood fundraiser

Joelle Obsatz’s family has owned Butterfield Market, a grocery store in New York City, for more than 100 years. When nearby nurses and medical workers started to volunteer for dangerous COVID-19 shifts, she wanted to do something to help. She started by preparing and donating meals to the hardworking doctors, nurses, and support staff at Lenox Hill Hospital, but when her customers heard about her efforts, they wanted to pitch in, too. So she organized Butterfield’s Feed Our Heroes campaign to collect donations. “The reaction has been overwhelming, thanks to the help of community members who continue to spread the word and generously contribute,” Obtatz says. “We’ve been able to raise over $211,000 and have provided over 13,000 meals to nurses at 15 different hospitals.”

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wine for nurses thank youCourtesy Raptor Ridge Winery

I’m handing out bottles of wine

Many people kick back with a bottle of wine after a hard day of work, and Scott Shull thought that nurses could definitely use that moment of relaxation. That’s why the 63-year-old from Newberg, Oregon, decided to donate a few bottles from his Raptor Ridge Winery to a local hospital. “I remember one nurse in particular when I handed her that bottle. The look of gratitude in her eyes made me realize I needed to do this more,” he says.

So he reached out to other wineries and gathered 1,413 cases of pinot noir, chardonnay, and rosé wines, along with 268 cases of nonalcoholic sparkling wine-grape juice, and delivered them to six hospital networks. “This is my way of saying thank you to all the nurses,” Shull says. “We know you are sacrificing and risking for the health and well-being of us all. Please enjoy a sip on us when you get some well-deserved downtime!”

Here’s what nurses wish you would stop doing—and not just during this crisis.

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face masks thank you nursesCourtesy Diana Yin

I’m personalizing masks for nurses

After reading an article about how nurses feel like wearing masks makes it harder to connect with their patients, Diana Yin, of Los Angeles, got a great idea. “I thought: What if you wore a mask that showed your interests, like baking or your love of dogs, that could be a talking point to connect with a patient, allowing you to express a little bit of yourself to them,” she says. So she started reaching out to friends who are nurses, offering to sew and personalize masks for them. From there, word spread, and soon she was getting dozens of requests from all over the country.

She has since gotten donations to cover her materials and shipping, allowing her to make as many masks as she has time to sew. She also includes a small box of baked treats with the donated masks. “I’m so glad I can say thank you in this small way,” Yin says. “Hopefully it brightens their day and their patients’ days!”

For more on this developing situation, including how people are helping and staying sane, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.