Nurses are often put in uncomfortable situations by patients who want to show their appreciation for their care.

While some forms of appreciation are acceptable, others are not. In this article, I will discuss what forms of appreciation are unacceptable for nurses and why you need to be careful with how you handle them.

*Disclosure: This article on “can nurses accept tips” and “can nurses accept gifts” may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

Can Nurses Accept Tips and Gifts?

In most cases, nurses can NOT accept gifts and tips. It’s most likely against the facility’s written policy. Not only that, it’s not a good look for the nursing profession as it could be seen as better care can be swayed with gifts and favors when the same care should be provided to all patients.

Why Nurses Shouldn’t Accept Tips

In general, I’m not a fan of the tipping concept. I understand there are some jobs like waiting tables or being a bartender that relies on tips, and that’s okay. But in general, I’m not a fan.

Tipping gives the impression that you can be swayed to give better care or do “extra” services. When in fact, nurses (and any healthcare provider) should be providing the best care possible following facility protocol and the very best evidence-based practices.

Furthermore, the optics (or how it looks to a 3rd person) is not good, and in some countries outside the United States, it could be seen as trying to bribe the medical staff.

Lastly, many nursing organizations frown on the concept, and for many facilities, it’s against their policy for their staff to receive cash tips and could be a fireable offense.

If you are going to do such a thing. YOU SHOULDN’T. If you don’t want to lose your job, you should at a minimum, make sure you’re not breaking any local laws or any facility policies.

What Should You Do If a Patient Tries to Tip You?

If a patient tries to tip you, be upfront with them and tell them you appreciate the gesture, but you’re not allowed to receive any tips. Most patients will understand this. If they don’t, you will need to stand your ground.

Why Nurses Shouldn’t Accept Gifts?

When it comes to gifts, you’re going to run into similar issues. Many facilities have some policies in place about gifts staff can receive.

I’ve heard of facilities that ban it outright, and then there are some facilities that limit how much you can get individually. For example, they could say it’s okay for you to get a gift that’s not worth more than $20 or something like that.

Pro-Tip
It’s a grey area if it’s a cash gift because if you think about it, it’s really hard to distinguish between a cash gift and a tip. So keep that in mind, even in situations where a patient brings you a gift card.

What to Do if a Patient Wants to Give You a Gift?

If a patient wants to give you an individual gift, thank them for their kind gestures and tell them you can’t receive individual gifts. Encourage them to get a group gift such as a gift basket or food that can be shared/given to the whole unit that took care of them.

It’s Probably Just Best to Avoid It!

As a nurse, you should never accept gifts, tips, or favors from patients. These gifts can not only be considered unethical but could also violate your employer’s policies.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and are now knowledgeable on what to do the next time a patient wants to give you a tip or a monetary gift.

Have You Read These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t believe it’s illegal, but it’s probably inappropriate and could be against your facility’s policy.

Ethically there probably isn’t anything wrong with it, but it might not look good to a third-party person and thus could get you in trouble. For healthcare workers, it’s best to avoid receiving gifts from patients.

It’s not customary to tip nurses, and most nurses won’t accept tips anyway. The reason for this is the ethical dilemma that arises when nurses receive gifts. Also, many facility policies prohibit nurses from receiving cash tips or high-value gifts.

You shouldn’t tip a healthcare worker in a hospital. The reason for this is that if a patient gives cash or a high-value gift, that health care worker could find themself in an uncomfortable ethical dilemma when it comes time to administer care. Many facility policies prohibit their staff from receiving cash tips or high-value gifts from patients because of this very reason.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, accepting high-value gifts puts the nurse at risk of crossing professional boundaries. The expectation is that nurses should deliver high-value care without favoritism being shown.

Nurses may be able to accept low monetary value gifts or community gifts such as a gift basket or food that’s brought for the entire unit and not just one nurse.

Just saying thank you and being appreciative of the care you received is enough to thank a hospital staff. If you want, you can also send a thank you card to the whole unit and maybe call out specific nurses who have made the most difference to you.