Special Delivery

Secrets of Saying Thanks to Your Birth Attendants

Having your baby is such a life-changing and wonderful occasion that you may be thinking of getting your birth attendants (midwife, nurses, etc.) a gift of thanks. Several nurses I spoke with all agree: Gifts are not necessary, but they are appreciated.

“It is always unexpected to get a gift from a patient or family,” says Kailyn Merrill, RN. “It is truly a heartfelt moment of reflection knowing I impacted their lives.”

Most hospitals have policies that staff cannot accept money or personal gifts other than “small tokens of appreciation of nominal value,” such as candy or flowers, so the good news is that showing your appreciation should never cost a lot of money and doesn’t really need to cost anything at all. The staff does love it when you appreciate the individualized care they give to help you get through the often long and difficult time.

When deciding what to give, consider these “insider” tips:

Get gifts that can be shared. Know that nurses will most likely share your gift. They work as a team and what one gets, one shares with the rest of the team. You might notice this teamwork during your stay: If you call for your nurse, another nurse may answer and get what you need. Support staff, such as unit clerks, work hard behind the scenes and don’t usually get the thanks they deserve, so nurses like to share gifts with them as well, so think about gifts that can be easily shared.

Think food safety. Even before the COVID pandemic, food safety was an important consideration. Avoid homemade food gifts, as they can be deemed questionable. Gifts of food should be from a commercial source and hopefully dated. (Food may be sitting in the break room for some time, and with shifts changing, it is important to know how old the gift is.) Anything that is expected to be shared should be individually wrapped whenever possible. While staff always goes for chocolate, healthcare workers are conscious of their diet! Choosing something a little more healthy and not so sugary may be a big hit. Most families give their gifts to the daytime staff, but don’t forget the night shift. Think about giving them their own portion specifically marked for the “night shift.”

Customize your gifts. If your plan is using a free-standing birthing center, you may want to observe your midwife during your prenatal visits so that you can customize your gift to what your midwife really enjoys. Is she drinking coffee or tea from a local shop? A gift card with a small amount loaded would be a nice way to say you appreciated their kindness and patience throughout your pregnancy.

No-cost gifts. Often, the most meaningful gifts cost nothing at all, according to the many nurses I talked with. Cecilia Scherer, RN, who works on the postpartum unit of a hospital in Alaska, says, “a card is always nice, just so I know I did for them what they needed at the time.” Another nurse in the postpartum unit added that she wanted to hear “what I did that you liked.” This is important information that helps the nurses to serve others better. Many of the nurses also said they love getting cards around the holidays with updates about how your baby is growing and what they are doing that’s new. They like when a picture is included so they can see how baby looks now. Cecilia says, “this kind of closes the loop. When we discharge, we almost never hear how your baby and you are doing, or what advice was helpful or not.” Stopping by for a visit (when visiting is allowed, of course) near your baby’s first birthday is also suggested. The nurses really are trying to do the best job they can, and your feedback lets them know what is important.

Comments please. Many hospitals have a comment card where you can tell them about your stay. The hospital administration pays a lot of attention to patient comments so the nurses want you to let the administration know how your stay has been and if there is anything that can be done to make it better. It is nice if you have a particularly great experience with any staff member to mention their name. Your hospital may have an award program and it really makes your nurse’s heart swell to be nominated. Mat-Su Regional Medical Center has the “Daisy Award” and it is a big deal to win. Whether you deliver your baby at a hospital or a birthing center, you may want to post a good review of your experience on social media. Most of the staff monitors social media and know when there are favorable reviews. Be as specific as possible as to what you liked about your experience. Send them pictures of your baby and allow them to use them on their website or in their advertising. The birthing staff love reading public reviews of your great birthing experience and it helps their business!

While nurses never expect a gift from you for doing their job, they love the thought that they did something that you appreciated so much that you wanted to do something special for them!

Terriann Shell, BS, RN, IBCLC, CHES, FILCA, serves new families as a Lactation Consultant at a local Alaska hospital and for a volunteer mother-to-mother discussion group. As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, she volunteers to keep children safe on our roads. She is the mother of 9 children and grandmother to 12 grandchildren that love to go with her while she kayaks and hikes in Alaska.