RN Creates “Littlethanks,” Line of Thank You Cards Just for Nurses
By Chaunie Brusie
Nursing can be a thankless job, but Isabelle Bertrand, 29, a Registered Nurse and Quality Improvement Clinician Lead from British Columbia, Canada, is aiming to change that.
Bertrand is the founder of Littlethanks, a line of thank you cards just for nurses. The cards are colorful, adorable, and perfectly-sized for scrub pockets, making it easy for you to slip one to your co-worker as a special little reminder of just how much you appreciate them.
Inspired by “burn out”
The dedicated entrepreneur explains that the inspiration for her business came to her after a particularly low point in her nursing career when she was burned out and contemplating leaving the profession altogether. All around her, her co-workers were exhausted and stretched to their breaking points. “Morale and teamwork were the lowest I had ever seen,” Bertrand remembers.
At that point, she says she put on her “quality improvement hat” and racked her brain for a small way that she could support herself and team members. Her thoughts flitted back to an article on gratitude that described the psychological benefits that come alongside of simply saying “thank-you” more freely and more often.
“How great would it be,” she thought, “If nurses had a way of expressing gratitude in a quick and easy way.”
Bertrand says she then imagined pre-written cards (necessary for time-strapped nurses, of course) that could be carried around and ready-to-go in a scrub pocket. And so, the idea for Littlethanks cards was born.
Small gesture, large impact
After conceptualizing the idea, Bertrand gave the first official Littlethanks card to an “incredibly hardworking care” aide whom she noticed giving a shower to an elderly woman not assigned to her list of patients for washes that morning. She remembers that her co-worker was initially confused by the gesture, but then, upon realizing that her actions were being recognized and appreciated, “she couldn’t seem to stop smiling.”
“Saying thank-you felt great on my end as well, and that’s when I realized that gratitude had impacts for both the giver and the receiver,” Bertrand adds. “For the rest of the shift, and in fact still to this day two months later, we break into smiles when we see each other and go out of our way to support and help one another on the unit.”
From there, Bertrand knew that she was onto something and her business grew. In fact, her Littlethanks cards have been so successful that Bertrand is planning on expanding her line of products into professions outside of the medical field, such as in education. “In the beginning, I really just wanted to give myself and my coworkers a new tool for supporting our mental resiliency and workplace culture,” she notes. “But seeing how successful the cards have been, with benefits going beyond what I had initially imagined, my goal has expanded to make these cards available to nurses worldwide.”
Currently, Littlethanks cards are sold on Etsy in packs of 18 for $3.99 with plastic wrapping or $4.71 with Kraft box packaging, plus shipping from Canada. The cards have a variety of heartfelt, humorous and write-your-own messages and special pricing is available for larger orders above 50 packs. (You can contact Bertrand through her website for larger orders.)
Gratitude boosts mental health
Bertrand explains that the cards are so important because not only are they a practical tool for nurses to connect with their co-workers and express their sincere appreciation (I mean, how often do you stop and gush thanks in the middle of a code, right?), but because they are rooted in the science of gratitude as well. She notes that current research suggests that expressing gratitude increases well-being and resiliency, workplace productivity, teamwork and culture while reducing illness and mortality. “There is also evidence to support the claims that expressing gratitude improves sleep, strengthens the immune system, increases tolerance to pain, enhances feelings of joy and empathy, and protects against depression,” she adds.
All that from a card small enough to fit in a scrub pocket? Sign us up.
Despite her packed schedule working her full-time job and running Littlethanks, Bertrand keeps busy with activities such as volunteering and backpacking to remote locations like Mongolia.
Clearly, Bertrand is the real deal and while she is excited for what the future holds for Littlethanks, her ultimate hope is that her cards will inspire a movement towards better all-around health for nurses. She views mental wellness as one of the biggest challenges for nurses, faced with the moral distress of working under systems that impose limits on the care they can provide.
“Speaking from experience, I can share that it is incredibly difficult to have to tell someone you are unable to help them to the toilet or hold their hand when they are scared, because you must first attend to the patient who is having chest pain, the one with dangerously low blood sugar, and the one who has just fallen,” she explains. “And so, nurses often go home internalizing feelings of guilt and self-disappointment, instead of giving fault to the healthcare systems under which they work.”
No one understands the pressure that nurses face like nurses, which is why the Littlethanks cards can be so especially powerful in fighting against the enormous mental and emotional toll that the profession can take. Just like its tagline that encourages expressing gratitude freely and frequently, the Littlethanks cards are a small gesture that can make a huge difference to a nurse who might be feeling alone in a sea of relentless patient care and stress.
“My hope is that these cards will support nurses with a tool to look after their well-being,” Bertrand says. “We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others, and it is my hope that by empowering nurses to prioritize mental wellness in this way, the benefits will positively impact not only with them but to their coworkers and patients as well.”