Former gift receiver here...
A couple of years ago I escorted a developmentally disabled, 30-something, non-verbal patient to the hospital to have his wisdom teeth removed. I've developed close bonds with a lot of these patients, but this was not one of them. He had episodes of "bucking" in his chair, or on a bath table, or in his bed, that were actually quite dangerous to the staff. He'd be admitted to my unit every six months or so and stay for about a week at a time. Never disliked him, or anything...I just never really "bonded" with him.
Well, for whatever reason, I was chosen to escort him to the hospital for his procedure and his mother elected to join us, as well. During the procedure, her and I had a lot of time to get to know eachother, make small talk, etc. Before he was dischargd from our unit, this patient's mother had dropped off a goody basket with my name on it and it totally blew me out of the water. I almost felt guilty for accepting it, because deep down, I'd never really cared for her son.
I think sometimes what it comes down to is a "customer service" thing. This patient's mother got to know me and we made this personal connection. While your co-worker may be a competent nurse (I don' know, is she?), perhaps she spends time "eliciting" these gifts by engaging in chit chat with her patients, rather than focussing on needs that aren't as easy for a patient to appreciate (performing assessments, encouraging ambulation, monitoring electrolytes, behind the scenes stuff).
In my opinion, it's more important to be an efficient nurse (which it sounds like you are) than to be the most liked-nurse. We are constantly doing things for the patient's welfare that they'll never even know about.