10 gifts to offer medical staff this holiday season

My favorite ways to show appreciation for my healthcare team

Claire Richmond avatar

by Claire Richmond |

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I walked across the Court Avenue bridge into downtown Des Moines, Iowa, accompanied by Michael, my spouse. We were greeted by smells of fresh coffee and breakfast sandwiches. It was late October and one of the last outdoor farmers markets of the year.

I bought an apple cider in a paper cup to keep me warm. “Let’s see if Pam is working,” I suggested, and we rounded a corner to look for the red-striped booth. By day, Pam is a nurse at Mission Cancer and Blood, where I receive my weekly Panhematin (hemin for injection) infusions. But on Saturdays during farmers market season, she helps sell her family’s famous baked goods and barbecue.

“There she is,” Michael said. He pointed at a cheerful redhead, collecting money for a giant cinnamon roll.

I dodged a pair of scruffy dogs on leashes and made my way through the crowd. “I don’t want to bother you, just saying hello!” I called out. Despite a line of customers, she pulled me in for a quick hug.

Like many people I’m fortunate to have on my medical team, Pam is empathetic, generous, and compassionate. When I became the first patient with acute hepatic porphyria (AHP) at the outpatient clinic, I was emotionally overwhelmed and closed off.

Pam learned about the disease. Her kindness helped the infusion center become a safe place for me. After five years of treatments, the nurses can read my body language and know if I’m having a rough day. I see the staff at Mission more than I do my friends and many family members.

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Finding ways to give back

Despite staffing shortages and low wages in healthcare, nurses, staff, and providers give so much to their patients throughout the year. It’s important I find ways to give back each holiday season.

I recently posted an Instagram story about the gifts I’ve given to medical staff and received several direct messages from followers.

“I always try to do local!” responded Meggie Young, a Des Moines friend with a chronic illness.

“We’ve done a few things, but food seems to be the biggest hit,” messaged Clara Hardick, who lives with AHP in Pennsylvania.

Using their ideas and some of my own, I created the following list of gift ideas for your medical team.

1. Scratch cards 

Not every $1-$2 scratcher is a winner, but it’s fun to play the game. Pick up a stack at your local convenience store.

2. Movie theater popcorn 

Warm buttered popcorn is always a crowd-pleaser! To save money, ask your local theater if you can purchase fresh popcorn in bulk and bag it yourself.

3. Truffles

Savoring a piece of gourmet chocolate is a form of self-care. Visit your local candy shop or purchase fancy chocolates, such as Lindt Lindor truffles, from a grocery store.

4. Handwritten cards

When’s the last time you felt the joy of receiving a handwritten card? In our fast-paced lives, the practice of slowing down to write a message is a gift for the giver as well.

5. Charcuterie board 

There’s so much sugar everywhere during the holidays. A charcuterie board of meats, cheeses, fruits, and nuts can be a healthier alternative with options for everyone.

6. Customized candies

My friend Candace, who lives with AHP in Arizona, told me about designing customizable M&Ms for her nurses during the pandemic. I’ve placed an order every year since! Choose from several color combinations and select healthcare imagery options to appear on the candy itself.

7. Doughnuts

Whether they’re sprinkled, glazed, or cream-filled, doughnuts are always a treat. Both Meggie and Clara mentioned buying a few dozen for staff members on their medical teams. You can even request that they be individually wrapped!

8. Bagels and cream cheese

Bagels aren’t just for breakfast and can satisfy both savory and sweet palates.

9. Squish panels

Squish panels offer sensory comfort in moments of stress. Members of your medical team can keep one in their desk drawer for those trying moments of the day.

10. Discount store finds

If all else fails, visit your local dollar store to assemble an inexpensive and festive gift basket. If you need some ideas, there’s a whole TikTok page devoted to Target Dollar Spot holiday gifts.

There’s no wrong way to thank your medical team this holiday season, or any season for that matter. It’s always the thought that counts, regardless of how much you spend or when you get around to doing the gifting.

Do you offer gifts to your healthcare team? Please leave your ideas in the comments.

Note: Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Porphyria News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to porphyria.


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