The Intake

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17 ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in your primary care practice

Boost morale for your staff and patients and capture the spirit of the holiday by trying one (or more) of these Thanksgiving celebration ideas.

Festive fall decorations are one of the ways to celebrate Thanksgiving for primary care practices

At a Glance

  • There are many creative ways for a primary care office to celebrate Thanksgiving with staff and patients, including sharing food, giving back through volunteering, showing appreciation for employees, and more.
  • Ideas include building a “wall of thanks,” hosting a recipe or pie contest, organizing a team hike or gratitude workshop, and others.
  • The goals are to boost morale, manage stress during the busy season, and bring people together through food, activities, and quality time.

Fall is in the air, and that can only mean one thing: the holidays are right around the corner — and first up is Thanksgiving. While traditional Thanksgiving Day festivities usually include spending time with loved ones, plenty of food, and marathon football viewing, these activities aren’t entirely appropriate for a primary care office setting. Instead, we’ve rounded up some of the best ways to celebrate Thanksgiving with your team. 

17 best Thanksgiving celebration ideas for your primary care practice

Boost morale for your staff and patients and capture the spirit of the holiday by trying one (or more) of these Thanksgiving-themed celebration ideas.

1. Celebrate Thanksgiving with festive fall decorations 

Thanksgiving-themed decorations around the office are a great way to celebrate and get everyone into the spirit of the season. 

Floral arrangements and fresh fruit are a quick and easy way to set the tone, but things can get expensive if you’re decorating larger spaces. If your independent practice is decorating on a budget, hit up your local craft store or grab fall favorites like pumpkins and gourds from your local grocer or farmers market. 

2. Share a Thanksgiving-themed treat

While a table filled with Thanksgiving fare may sound great, it may not be the most practical option for small healthcare practices during a busy holiday season. To keep the spirit of the season alive, celebrate Thanksgiving with small treats like cookies, individual apple pies, or homemade cheese puffs instead. Whether sweet or savory, small treats travel well, they’re easy to hand out to patients, and the prep will likely be less stressful for your team members. 

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3. Give back and volunteer as a group

Thanksgiving is the official kick-off to the season of giving, and one of the best ways to celebrate is to lean into an attitude of gratitude, volunteer your time, and give back to those less fortunate. You and the crew can: 

  • Volunteer at the local food bank 
  • Box and deliver meals to those who are alone and home-bound 
  • Volunteer with initiatives like Shopping Angels, a volunteer-owned and operated group that offers free grocery delivery services to older community members, or Operation Turkey, a volunteer effort that works to ensure that everyone has a warm meal on Thanksgiving Day. 

To give back in an even bigger way, double down on the family feel and encourage your team to bring their loved ones along. 

While this time of year is often focused on food, your team’s volunteer efforts don’t have to be. ”

While this time of year is often focused on food, your team’s volunteer efforts don’t have to be. Think outside the box and consider:

  • Cleaning up trash around your community
  • Delivering blankets, clothing, and personal care items to local shelters
  • Packing gift boxes as part of Toys for Tots™ or Operation Christmas Child™ (Christmas planning often gets underway around Thanksgiving)

Another alternative is to set up your own food and clothing drive in the office. At its conclusion, you can schedule a pick-up for distribution, or you and your staff can make the donation in person. 

4. Build a “wall of thanks”

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and there’s no better time than Thanksgiving to say “thank you.” The best part is all it takes is an empty wall and some index cards.

To build “a wall of thanks,” hand out blank index cards to your staff (and patients if you’d like) and encourage everyone to write something they appreciate about each team member. Appoint someone to display the cards on its designated wall and watch as a deluge of gratitude washes over your team. 

5. Celebrate Thanksgiving in a culturally appropriate way

Today, Thanksgiving is a time of joy and abundance, shared with family and friends. However, the history of the holiday is far more complex. To educate your team on the true history of Thanksgiving, consider partnering with a Native American guest speaker in your area to speak with your team over a catered lunch. 

If you can’t find a local speaker, consider gifting your staff a book on the subject. Some options include:

  • Killers of The Flower Moon By David Grann
  • Trail Of Tears: The Rise and Fall Of The Cherokee Nation By John Ehle 
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West By Dee Brown 

6. Show your employees you’re thankful for them and all they do

In addition to being the most wonderful time of the year, November and December are the busiest months in the healthcare field as patients try to beat the clock before deductibles reset in January. Burnout in healthcare workers is a real issue, and a busy holiday season will only add to your team’s stress. 

You could show your appreciation with small gifts that help your team manage stress and find some balance. ”

While December is traditionally the giving season, you could kick off your busy season and show your appreciation with small gifts that help your team manage the stress and find some balance. Think about:   

  • Gift cards for a local coffee shop 
  • Potted plants to brighten up their workspaces
  • A team dinner or a fun night out to help them blow off some steam 
  • A simple thank you card to tell them why you’re so thankful for them

7. Screen Thanksgiving-themed movies for your patients while they wait 

Your patients may not mind long wait times if they have some entertainment to pass the time. So, consider screening Holiday-themed movies for a week or 2 leading up to Thanksgiving day. 

While some channels might make it easy with holiday movie marathons, you could DIY it with your own picks or let your staff help by choosing their favorite titles. 

For some great thought starters, try: 

  • The Blind Side
  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 
  • Home Alone 
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  • The Family Stone

As a reminder, you should keep ratings in mind if you regularly have little ones in the waiting room. 

8. Hold a recipe contest

If staff members like to share food, consider boosting the fun factor by holding a recipe contest. To keep things fair, limit the contest to 3 entry categories and make sure you have at least 2 entrants for each. This way, voters can compare apples to apples, appetizers to appetizers, and desserts to desserts.

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9. Host your own Great Thanksgiving Pie Bake-Off 

Speaking of healthy competition, a pie bake-off might be tons of fun for the gang. All you need here are willing competitors, a panel of judges, and a great prize.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, you could make a donation to a local charity of the winner’s choosing. An afternoon off works, too. 

10. Organize a team hike

A little time in the fresh fall air might be just what the doctor orders to help your team prepare for the busy season ahead. Think about organizing a hike for the team to get everybody up and moving.

Think about organizing a hike for the team to get everybody up and moving. ”

When making the preparations, just be sure to consider everyone’s physical aptitude. Ideally, you want team events to be as inclusive as possible. Also, try to keep the locale somewhere easily accessible to all team members.

11. Host a gratitude workshop

Research shows that gratitude boosts happiness, helps people feel more positive, and builds stronger relationships. So, for the gift that keeps on giving, think about arranging a lunchtime gratitude workshop for the team. 

12. Provide a hot chocolate bar

If you’re looking for a way to share in the warmth and spirit of the season without cleaning out your petty cash, a hot chocolate bar might hit the spot for staff and patients alike. For a spirited setup, use festive cups and napkins, and don’t forget the mini marshmallows. 

13. Coordinate a “bring a pie to work day”

Everyone likes a sweet treat or 3, so coordinating a “bring a pie to work day” might be one of the best Thanksgiving ideas on our list. And there’s no long and drawn-out planning necessary — it’s as easy as creating a sign-up sheet for the crew in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and having team members bring a pie in to share with the team each day. 

Everyone likes a sweet treat or 3, so coordinating a “bring a pie to work day” might be one of the best Thanksgiving ideas on our list. ”

14. Share Thanksgiving traditions

Plan lunch with a twist for your team. When the crew sits down to eat, take turns around the table and let everyone share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. Incidentally, this doubles as an excellent team-building exercise and a great way for everyone to get to know each other. 

15. Have a “campfire” party during lunch

If turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving fare sounds like a heavy lift for your busy staff, keep it casual and do a campfire lunch instead. Roll out the hot dogs and offer up some s’mores by candlelight. 

16. Arrange an “anything-but-turkey” lunch

For many people, Thanksgiving dinner can last well past Thanksgiving day. So, before your team hits their respective kitchens to get elbow-deep in turkey, think about an “anything but turkey” lunch. This could be a nice break for the team with group favorites, ethnic choices, or whatever the team votes for. 

17. Host a cocktail party

Libations are an excellent way to celebrate the season. And while you can’t exactly do a drink hour during office hours, you can plan for one after hours.

Set up drinks, add snacks, and play some music — your team will undoubtedly feel festive in no time. If hosting a cocktail hour in the office doesn’t work for you, make arrangements for a meet-up after hours. If your office is dry, consider a coffee bar or DoorDash some Starbucks.

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Sharon Brandwein, Freelance healthcare writer

Sharon Brandwein, CSSC, is a certified sleep science coach and a freelance writer. She specializes in health, parenting, and all things sleep. In her work on independent healthcare practices, she focuses on helping providers with their messages and resources, which ultimately benefits patients. She believes that independent practices are likely to be more responsive to patients’ needs, ultimately boosting care. Her work has appeared on ABC News, USA Today, Parents, and Forbes.

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