Even if you don’t know any nurses personally, you probably know this: They spend a lot of time caring for others. It’s an essential and often thankless job, and right now it’s even more essential, as nurses and other medical professionals put themselves at risk every day to care for patients with COVID-19. If you do have nurses in your lives, there’s no better time to send a gift to show your appreciation. Whether it’s something that’ll make the long shifts more bearable or help them relax when they’re off the clock, the right gift can not only show you care, but also improve their lives, at work or at home. We asked nine experienced nurses about the best gifts they’ve received and the ones they’d love to get right now.
Gifts to help them stay caffeinated
With long days and nights, the nurses we talked to all said the gift of caffeine will surely be appreciated. (If you don’t know a nurse, don’t worry. You can still send them coffee. Justin Mattera, owner of Blend Bay Ridge, began taking donations through Instagram to fund coffee deliveries to doctors and nurses on the front lines after he was forced to close his own shop. Your contribution will help fund the hundreds of coffees a day he and his team deliver to three Brooklyn Hospitals.)
Nearly all of the nurses we talked to recommend giving an insulated coffee tumbler. Atlanta-based family nurse practitioner Julia Eze says an insulated tumbler is the “perfect work accessory [that] a nurse can utilize throughout the entirety of a shift.” Sonja M. Schwartzbach, a nurse in the New York tristate area, says Yeti tumblers, which keep coffee hot and water cold, are popular among nurses because they hold large quantities of liquid to sip during a shift.
With most local coffee shops closed, nurses used to picking up a latte on their way to work have to make other arrangements. Zach Adams, a certified registered nurse anesthetist in Philadelphia, puts coffee at the top of his list of recommendations and says that not all nurses have a coffee grinder at home. This gift set from coffee startup Drip Kit makes pour-over coffee simple to brew anywhere. It comes with a Hario electric kettle and ten single servings of delicious drip coffee. To use, you simply unfold the cardboard drip kit, place it on top of your mug and add hot water.
Several nurses we spoke with said a gift card for Starbucks (or another local coffee shop) would be a welcome gift. “[Nurses] can use that going into their shift, but they can also treat their whole unit to Starbucks,” says Katie Duke, an in-patient cardiology nurse practitioner in New York City. Eze calls it “an all-time fave.” [Editor’s note: Depending on the city and state you’re in, many Starbucks locations have closed their doors, but some remain open in and around hospitals.]
Gifts to help them take care of themselves
Not surprisingly, massage gift cards came up a few times in our reporting. Adams says that, despite not being able get a massage right now, this would still be appreciated for when things get back to normal. “Nurses take care of other people for 40-plus hours a week,” Duke says. “Sometimes at the end of the day, we don’t have energy to do things for ourselves.” Nurse practitioner Danielle LeVeck agrees and says nurses appreciate a gift that lets them pamper themselves. A gift card for a local spa is always good, but Schwartzbach says one of her favorite gifts is the promise of an eventual in-home massage through the on-demand service Zeel.
To make sure N95 masks have a good seal, male nurses need to be clean-shaven, Adams says. He recommends gifting an electric razor or shaving kit to help with the process. This one from Norelco got the most praise from our shaving experts when we asked about the best electric razors.
Strategist beauty writers Tembe Denton-Hurst and Rio Viera-Newton recently answered an ER doctor’s plea for ways to soothe her dry and irritated skin that was wrecked by wearing N95 mask for 14 hours at a time. This rich and calming moisturizer is designed to hydrate and protect extremely irritated skin.
Gifts to feed them (and one they can drink)
One of the best gifts LeVeck ever received was a subscription to a meal-delivery service. “Nursing is exhausting and the last thing any of us wants to do when we get home is cook dinner,” she says. She loves that it takes the work out of grocery shopping and menu planning so she could easily prepare healthy meals for her family.
For something sweeter, Amy Sedgwick, Clinical RN, BSN at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, says she would love to receive this chocolate care package. “This is obviously a challenging and scary time. What keeps me going is looking forward to something delicious mid-shift or after a shift,” Sedgwick says. She would be thrilled to receive Seattle Chocolate’s Make Mine Dark care package with a couple of different dark chocolate bars and truffles — some for herself and some to share with her team.
Gifts to help them sanitize
According to Adams, his biggest concern right now is not getting his family sick. So he suggests giving nurses innovative ways to sanitize themselves and their belongings when they return home from a shift. If you know they have outdoor space or a porch, Adams thinks one of these portable outdoor showers normally used for camping would be appreciated. This way they can suds up and rinse off (hopefully out of sight of the neighbors) before entering the house.
Gifts they can wear
Diana Arias, an ER Nurse in New York City would like a lightweight backpack to replace the big book bag she currently uses to carry all her necessities to the hospital. (That includes her stethoscope, pens, badge, wallet, phone, lotion, hand sanitizer, a pouch with feminine products, medications for head and body aches, and body splash.) “I walk to work and it weighs me down,” says Arias.
Adams mentioned that Crocs has been donating lots of clogs to health-care workers. And though he prefers wearing Brooks sneakers, he says Crocs are easier to sanitize. This pair is a bit more durable and provides more support than Crocs’ signature clogs, and they’re just as comfortable.
Stylish compression socks
Nearly every nurse we spoke with said they’d love to receive a pair of compression socks, preferably in a fun pattern or print. According to Sonja M. Schwartzbach, a nurse in the tristate area, these snug socks are the “holy grail” for nurses on their feet for 12-hour shifts. Eze says they’re “really good for making sure you’re getting good blood supply to your legs,” preventing pain and swelling. This pair from Nurse Mates, one of Schwartzbach’s favorite brands, are less than $20. As Schwartzbach says, “You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but it’s something that when nurses get as a gift, they appreciate.”
A registered nurse from Seattle, who asked to remain anonymous due to her employer’s media policy, says colorful socks like these play an important role in the fight against the coronavirus. “We are now required to roll and tuck our scrub pants into high socks to prevent the virus from being carried around by fabric that drags on the floor,” she says adding that this style is now known as the “COVID cuff.”
“We are required to wear our hair up in a bun and out of our face right now, which is super-uncomfortable for 12 hours at a time,” says the nurse from Seattle. She suggests giving RNs comfortable and cute headbands to wear while on a shift. This headband from Lululemon comes recommended by Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson.
Because nurses wear them every day, a new set of scrubs would be a nice gift. Duke (who actually designed her own line of scrubs with Cherokee Uniforms) says that lots of nurses often wear free scrubs from their hospitals but that these can be unflattering, uncomfortable, or not made with enough pockets for everything they need to carry around. “We work in health care, so you can’t really express yourself with tons of fashion,” she says. “But everybody still wants to look good and be confident in what they’re wearing.” This set from Figs has a more tailored fit and plenty of pockets. Registered nurse Brittney Wilson describes them as “supersoft and really nice.”
Figs also makes tailored, functional scrubs for men.
Like Figs, Jaanuu is a relatively new brand that designs stylish scrubs as well as pieces like jackets and undershirts to be worn with your hospital outfit. Wilson says the brand has done a good job catering to the plus-size audience. It’s also a favorite of Schwartzbach, who turns to Jaanuu for “scrub leisure” styles like this underscrub shirt. Since some parts of the hospital are kept very cold, she relies on these for warmth — and also modesty. “We’re doing a lot of bending and lifting,” she says, “and you don’t want that crack between your scrub top and your scrub pants to show.” A tucked-in under-scrub shirt closes up the gap.
Since many hospitals require that nurses wear specific color scrubs, a little piece of flair like a handmade badge clip helps them add some personality to their uniform. Eze says nurses often choose clips that represent their specialties, like a heart for a cardiac nurse or an X-ray for a nurse in the orthopedic department.
With three nurses mentioning the brand by name, Littmann is basically a status stethoscope among nurses. “When you see doctors and cardiologists wearing a stethoscope, it’s usually that one,” says Schwartzbach, who thinks it’d be an especially thoughtful gift for a new nurse about to start his or her career. LeVeck adds that they’re “the highest-quality stethoscopes on the market and a must-have for any nurse.” Wilson says “you can almost never go wrong” with a Littmann.
For newly engaged or married nurses who don’t want to risk losing their rings, silicone bands offer a cheap and fuss-free alternative to wear on the job. “I have a beautiful wedding ring and engagement ring and I don’t wear them to the hospital because it’s an infection risk,” says Schwartzbach. These silicone rings are easy to sanitize.