The Best Thank You Gifts for Hospital Staff

Hospital staff are amazing! They are with us at our most vunerable life moments. They comfort us when we’re scared, cheer us on, and guide us through our medical journey. A thank you gift for hospital staff is a natural way to show your deepest appreciation.

Whether you are a parent with a newborn in NICU, a cancer patient grateful for their oncology department, or a family happy with grandpa’s care for dementia, saying thank you to these angels means a lot.

A thank you can take the form of food, useful items for nurses, and kind gestures. Which one will you choose?

Read on to find a list of ideas for hospital gifts for staff, hospital policy on gift giving, and where to drop your gifts off at! By the way, refer to our example thank you note ideas for nurses and thank you note ideas for doctors to add to your gift.

Table of Contents

Hospital rules

Before giving a gift to a family, make sure you know the rules. Most hospitals have strict policies in place regarding staff accepting gifts from patients. In some cases, staff can even be fired if they violate hospital policy. You don’t want that to happen!

Each hospital will have some standards in place, but gift rules are usually universal:

  • no cash gifts
  • no gift cards
  • no vouchers
  • no liquor
  • no individual gifts

There is enough feedback in online forums to suggest that liquour would be confiscated. This applies to individual gifts, too. Some hospitals may take the gifts, and then use them in a manner that all staff can benefit from. Thank you gifts should be something that can be shared by the whole medical team (or shift).

Illustration with text of hospital gift policy: no gifts of cash, gift cards, or individual gifts to staff.
Most hospitals share the same policy on gifting to staff. Check with your local health care facility regarding their gift policies.

There may be some leeway in the rules, such as allowing staff to accept gift cards for values $25 and under. As stated before, usually gifts can only be accepted that can be shared by all staff.

Make your gesture of thanks matter by not violating hospital policy. It would be upsetting to learn that your gift was never even enjoyed by your caregiver. In addition, you don’t want to put staff in an awkward position of having to decline a gift.

If you’re still confused about what is accepted or allowed, just reach out and ask the hospital. They may even cover it on their website.

Tips for giving gifts to hospital staff

Giving a gift to hospital staff, especially after a serious illness, can be something that the patient feels passionate about doing. Of course, you feel thankful! Here are a few tips to consider before buying your gift for hospital worksers:

  • Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Make sure they know who the gift is came from (add a note).
  • Observe the thank you gifts that do arrive at the nurse station for ideas.
  • Write down the names of the staff that cared for you, so you can name them in a card or note.
  • Avoid flowers, nurses as well as other patients could be allergic.
  • Choose gifts that can be shared easily among staff/shifts.
  • Provide food gifts that are respectful of dietary needs.
  • Food should be sealed in packages and not homemade (many nurses won’t touch food from unknown sources).
  • Ask at the hospital reception desk or nurse station for contact persons for the department and best time for delivery.

If you were envisioning a happy moment where your gift arrives and the nurses flock around it, – no, that won’t happen. Health care workers are busy and usually grab and eat gifts of food on the run.

Woman with arms wrapped around laptop with perplexed look.
For your thank you gift to really stand out for hospital staff, pay attention to these tips!

Trying to accomodate for everyone’s dietary needs is challenging. On the flip side, staff who are gluten free or diabetic will usually be left out of a food gift.

If you’re questioning quantity, you can call the hospital to ask about the number of staff on shift. This also provides the opportunity to let someone know when you’re planning on dropping off a gift. Letting them know isn’t necessary, the nurses will always be excited to get a surprise!

Don’t forget the night shift!

Imagine a nurse coming on the evening shift and seeing the tail end of a thank you gift, with a few crumbs, and maybe a card. That’s exactly what happens, they miss out.

Smart gift givers send a gift to both the day and night hospital shifts so everyone gets acknowledged. Also consider that nurses pull different shifts, and the nurse you like might not even be working the day the goodies arrive.

Sometimes there are local food establishments that deliver around 12 or 1 am – or order a large sandwich tray and make sure it’s not set out for the night shift until night shift. Or try to drop off your gift at or around shift change to hit both staff groups.

Alternatively, you can reach out to a manager to ask for help in coordinating a delivery for an evening shift. Entering the building after visiting hours will have to be coordinated. Your efforts, though, will be remembered!

Male nurse working the night shift at a hospital.
Night shift hospital nurses deserve your gratitude, too!

Food for the win!

Gifts of food are always a welcome treat. Most people immediately think of food gifts first to send to hospital staff. There are two lists below: a generic list idea… and then an amazing food list idea! If you’re curious what would really stand out to hospital staff, scroll down to that one!

  • little cookie tins
  • candy, mints, gum
  • individually wrapped chocolates
  • snacks, chips, crackers, nuts
  • fruit basket
  • pizza
  • gluten-free/keto/vegan assorted snacks
  • bagels
  • fresh bakery items (scones, muffins, pastries, etc.)
  • sub sandwiches
  • cheese/cracker tray
  • vegetable platter
  • breakfast basket/breakfast burritos
  • sandwich platter/deli sandwiches
  • desserts
  • protein bars and sugar free energy drinks
  • granola bars
  • water enhancers- electrolyte supplements
  • energy drinks
Food gift ideas for hospital staff
Healthy food platters, pizza delivery, and sweet treats all make great food gift ideas for hospital staff.

This is the MEMORABLE list of food gifts given to hospital staff 🙂 Be sure to include a sincere thank you note!

  • Big bag of bagels from Panera and a few containers of flavored cream cheese.
  • BIG Edible Arrangements delivery.
  • Whittakers Minis, See’s Candies, Purdy’s Chocolates, Lindt Chocolate.
  • Chocolate covered strawberries! Chocolate anything!
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes bundtinis or cupcakes from a nice bakery in town : )
  • Fresh apples from your apple tree.
  • Crate of fresh mandarin oranges (because in Chinese culture they’re supposed to bring good fortune).
  • NICU/extended stays: pizza dinners for both shifts once a month to cover the entire shift (doctors, nurses, and support staff).
  • A breakfast basket with pastries/bagels/muffins/hard boiled eggs, orange juice, etc.
  • Costco boxes of snacks – granola bars, trail mix packs, Oreos, Goldfish, Cliff Bars, packs of gum, big bags of mixed candy or anything from the Costco bakery (muffins, danishes, pies, and cookies).
  • Cater lunch in: Chick-fil-A, Olive Garden, Jimmy Johns, Chipotle, or a favorite local deli sandwiches.
  • An electric coffee bean grinder and a bag of good coffee beans (nothing smells (or tastes) better than freshly ground coffee!).
  • Gluten free snack bars (Kind is a common option).
  • Red Bulls/Celsiuses/Alani Nus — healthy energy drinks.
Diverse group of nurses.
Your healthcare team deserves your appreciation!

More advice: keep food healthy, or sprinkle in a mix of fruits and vegetables. Real meals are a welcome change to platters of muffins and junk food. Don’t buy off-brand stuff. Opt for food that is individually wrapped by the manufacturer. Don’t leave anyone out! Include low allergen, vegan, and gluten-free products.

I bet you’re thinking that a coffee delivery would be a great hit. Sounds like the perfect thank you to nurses, right? It’s a great idea, but the logisitics are against you. Nurses are always on the move – piping hot coffee ends up getting cold. Even if you call ahead, the nurses are coming and going.

I put pics of my parents on a gift bag and a little note telling them how wonderful my dad is and the man they are taking care of.

-Family of patient

Food is great but…

There is nothing that says “I am so grateful for your care” than homemade food. However, medical professionals in the health field are wary of accepting food when they don’t know the integrity of the ingredients or source.

Sealed food, or food from a known vendor with a commercial kitchen is the preferred choice. Nurses will actually pass over food that has the potential to be tampered with, regardless of your best intentions.

Jump here for guidance where to deliver your gift to the hospital.

Putting extra thought into the presentation of the gift will also bring a smile to caregiver’s faces. Just check out Pinterest for novel ideas for picnic presentation themed gifts that are super cute, or pen or candy bar “bouquets”.

Non-food gifts for hospital staff

Food gifts are great, but there are other impactful ways to give caregivers your thanks. Nurses work in tough environments. A sincere thank you, positive feedback, and/or just returning the kindness enforces that they are doing a great job.

You, as a thankful patient or supportive family member, can brighten up their day, both with words, and clever alternative gifts.

Best non-food gifts

If foods gifts are a hit, the following ideas are a close second. Or score double points with hospital staff and tuck these thank you gifts in a food basket, or make up your own goodie bags.

I’ve enjoyed many wonderful little gifts over the years… We’re not a picky group. We accept pretty much any small thing in the spirit it was given.

-Nurse

Hospitals are dry environments. In addition, staff are required to repeatedly sanitize their hands, ending up drying them out. Hand sanitizer sounds like a good idea but most of it isn’t strong enough to use in the hospital.

Mini hand lotions and chapstick/lip balm in bulk go over well. The lotion should be unscented. Scented products can irritate sensitive patients (or infants). In addition, strong smells mask the nurse’s or doctor’s ability to identify odors that may be of concern when monitoring patients.

Badge reels? I would have never thought that nurses go wild over these. One family dropped off a huge variety pack of funny badge reels for nurses – it was a big hit. The nurses had fun picking their favorite out.

8 PC Funny Nurse Badge Reel Retractable ID Card Holder; Cute Nurses Reels Clip Holders Lanyard Accessories for ER CNA RN ICU IPN NICU Nursing Student Must Haves Medical Assistant Nurse Gifts Bulk

Nurses love high quality pens. They will go on and on about the “nice, smooth writing ones” and the “crappy ones” that bring them no joy. I get it, writing on charts is a big part of their job. Favorite nurse pens include brands such as Pilot G2 Pens, Uniball gel pens, and tūl needle point pens. Give your nurses a good pen that will last for months and they will love you forever!

Runners knee socks (also known as compression socks), are an unusual gift if you can afford it. They’re good for people on their feet all day. They come in lots of fun colors, prints, and styles just for nurses. See for yourself the selection of fun nurse compression socks on Amazon.

Aoliks Compression Socks for Women & Men,Support Socks for Nurses Cycling Circulation

Nurse-themed gifts like socks, tumblers, key chains, thank you art etc. are not hard to find on Amazon. Nurses appreciate these practical gifts. The other positive it that there is a greater likelihood that both the day and night shift, and people on rotating schedules will actually get their fair share.

Unexpected and novel gifts makes for a fun and memorable thank you from patients.

Where to deliver your gift

You’re probably wondering how to get your wonderful gift to the nurses you want to thank. It depends on the facility. Best practice is not to go “too high up” in the chain of command. Dealing with a food delivery is miniscule when nurses are trying to take care of patients.

There is always a reception desk staffed with a volunteer that will require that you check in at the facility. If you explain your purpose, they may allow you to deliver the gift yourself to the right floor. A delivery person probably has been through the ropes several times.

Hospital staff talking to a visitor at the nurses station.
The best place to catch nurses… is at the nurses station.

Every floor has a main nursing desk, including ER. That would be the best place to drop off your gift, if the hospital allows that. Otherwise, reception staff volunteers or paid staff know what to do with your gift (give them the details of the right department).

The same goes for a nursing home facility. If your gift needs a little more coordination, especially with catered food, be sure to call ahead.

Thank you notes that touch the heart

Nurses say it over and over, they neither require nor expect gifts. They will say, however, being told “thank you”, given a grateful handwritten note, or receiving artwork from your kid will melt their heart.

In fact, nurses hold on to these physical testaments of their worth years later. Notes and cards are taped to walls, put into memory boxes, and re-read over and over. If you send a food gift, don’t forget to tuck in a meaningful note in with it.

Nurse comforting an elderly man.
Surprisingly, nurses don’t get sincere thank you notes or cards that much – the ones they do receive, they hold on to.

I have loved the cards patients have given me. I keep them all and when I’m particularly frustrated I read them.

-Nurse

Make your gesture even more special by taking a picture of the nurse with you, your family, the child patient, etc., and then present a printed copy of it to them later.

Don’t miss my article on example ideas for writing thank you notes to hospital staff for inspiration.

Give a glowing review for outstanding patient care

Writing a positive review is a legimate way to help a department out. Letting management know who you think was outstanding is the best way to get administration’s attention. The result is that the “higher ups” can identify their best staff and get a user’s inside feedback of each department.

Most hospitals have an online area to offer compliments of patient experience. These are extremely valuable for patient quality control. If you can remember the name of the staff members to mention, do so. These compliments are usually sent to their managers who pass on your positive remarks.

Person typing on laptop keyboard, leaving feedback online.
Leaving positive feedback in a hospital survey, or recommending an outstanding nurse for a Daisy Award is prized

Feedback on industry-recognized platforms, like the Press Ganey survey helps, too. “Press Ganey is a healthcare performance improvement company that specializes in patient experience surveys. Press Ganey surveys help healthcare organizations identify areas where they can improve the quality of care and patient satisfaction.” -Definitive Health Care

Participating in a Press Ganey survey is not something that a patient can do on their own. Rather, it would be facilitated through a health care agency where you received patient services. The important thing to know, is that it carries weight.

One nurse commented that a patient specifically named her in their survey – she was provided that feedback and in her words “still keeps a picture of it.”

I’d take an awesome review for my personnel record over snacks any day. 🙂

-Nurse

Bottom line, praise for your RN, CNAs, ER staff will make it to their ears via the formal process. Again, check the feedback section of a hospital or care agency website if wanting to leave a positive remark. Above all, name names, and be specific in your praise. Google reviews, help too.

Generous words go a long way!

Daisy Awards

Daisy Awards are a big, big deal in nursing. They’re really hard to get, and nurses feel honored to even be nominated for them.

From the Daisy Award FAQ page: Anyone may submit a nomination – patients, patient family members, co-workers, physicians, staff – anyone who experiences or observes extraordinary compassionate care being provided to a patient by a nurse.

Nurses discussing a patient.
For those very special nurses, consider nominating them for a Daisy Award.

If there’s a particular nurse who stood out to you, nominate them for a Daisy Award! Or if the hospital has their own gold star/feedback system, fill one of those out, highlighting them. Just remember that it’s not only the bubbly and friendly nurses that rise to the top, there are other nurse angels that make a difference in their own quiet way.

In addition to the feel-good aspect, awards stand out on a nurse’s resume. They play a part in positive performance reviews, ultimately resulting in a salary raise. So if you really want to show appreciation to a star nurse, help them out this way!

If you are interested in recommending a nurse for the Daisy Award, start your nomination for the Daisy Award here.

Where to send your feedback

I’ve sold you on giving positive feedback to hospital staff, good! The next question is how to do that.

The hospital will undoubtedly ask you to complete a survey before leaving the hospital. In some cases, the survey can come weeks later in the mail and/or via email (I know my own healthcare system is a real pest about it).

Don’t think that is your only chance. With a health crisis, the last thing that someone thinks about is filling out a survey about their care. By the time the dust has settled, you’re probably ready to hand out proper thank you’s and follow through on feedback on your own timeline.

Visit the hospital website for the correct path. You can send your feedback to the CEO, chief nursing officer, or manager of a department. I would encourage you to use their preferred pathways of communications for feedback, as they are busy people themselves.

Thank-you’s for unique situations

All of the ideas so far, the food/non-food gifts, the thank you notes and feedback, are all awesome ways to show your thanks to hospital staff or caregivers. Even so, you may feel you need to do more, especially in different scenarios.

I’m talking about hospice nurses gently carrying your family through the death process, or an ER nurses assisting in the most traumatic of injuries. Anyone having a baby in NICU, or someone going through cancer treatments is in a long, long journey. A more personal thank you is more fitting to those caregivers.

Man embracing a healthcare worker.
Nurses support people through very difficult life challenges.

In the event of death, let the facility know in advance when the funeral will be. There are likely some staff who will want to go. I remember a local doctor attending my aunt’s funeral, I was really touched by that. But then again, my aunt was amazing, and probably touched his life in a way no one knew.

Rude patients

Rude patients are a whole other issue. Nurses, being the understanding creatures they are, get that the person may be scared, frustrated, or in pain. That still doesn’t make it fun to deal with a PITA.

Grateful family want to make up for the behavior of the offending patient. Show your thanks (and apologies) by bringing a basket of goodies to the nursing station. Just an FYI, nurses say not being a pain in the butt is the best gift to give a nurse!

Extending gratitude over time

A “one and done” may not be the type of thank you to hospital staff that you are looking for.

One grateful family member made an annual gift on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Often, family is too overwhelmed to think of a gift in the moment, and rightfully so. There is nothing wrong with dropping off a thank you gift six months later.

When you really get to know staff, such as in nursing home care, gifts can become a regular occurence. Maybe it’s pizza once a month, or a seasonal gift. The imiportant thing is to at some point show your thanks.

The gift wrap up

Good nurses and staff can definitely leave you in a better position to heal because of their care. Acknowledging their kindness can send powerful signals to them that you value their kindness and professionalism.

Thanks and recognition for how they handle the day-to-day stuff keeps their kindness pack recharged for the next person.

THANK YOU NURSES AND CAREGIVERS, EVERYWHERE!

Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee pulls no punches when it comes to challenging the social norms of gift giving. Her mission: putting an end to meaningless gifts and cutting through the fluff. This midwest mom offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!