Recognizing Your Nurses

  1. 9

    Ways to show your staff, peers and coworkers you care.

    Recognizing Your Nurses

    "To fully engage employees and make them feel like they want to push the company forward just like the CEO, they need to be recognized. Humans have this need to be recognized and when they are, they perform better." (Apfelbaum, 2015)

    Recognizing S

    I've never been in a management position, but I have had some great (and admittedly not so great) nurse leaders and managers over the years. While many management styles exist and several factors weigh in on what makes a great manager, staff acknowledgement is one major piece of the puzzle. It feels good to be recognized, to know your efforts are not going unnoticed - especially in a field like ours. We are always trying our best. And who doesn't like giving or getting a little gratitude?

    My current hospital and nurse leader are both exceptional in staff recognition. During my first few weeks on the job I was shocked to see all the activities and small gifts they had planned for nurses week. A luncheon, fun photo booths, gifts of pins, hospital logo bags, phone chargers, and a daily coffee/tea cart with snacks. I had to keep my jaw from touching the floor below me when the man pushing the coffee cart introduced himself to me as the CEO of our hospital. Impressive. And he didn't seem to mind the least bit when we asked for extra creamer.

    My nurse leader has far too many people to keep track of, but somehow she does it. She knows all of our names, our stories, our struggles and keeps it all straight. She and the nurse educator on the unit frequently team up to organize potlucks for various occasions and cancel staff meetings to allow for more time with family during the holidays. They have even dragged in a cooler full of gourmet ice pops to boost unit morale (a crowd favorite). Yes, there is such a thing a gourmet ice pops...who knew? They come around our unit and personally deliver handwritten cards for the winter holidays and also for nurses week. It may not seem like much to some but I was extremely grateful to be appreciated, especially after my last job where the phrase "thank you" was few and far between.

    Anticipating Unit Needs

    My nurse leader and nurse educator have a great open door policy. You can stop into their office anytime. They always seem to greet you warmly and make time for any issues that come up, despite how jam packed their day might be. They are frequently seen around the unit, but never in a micromanaging, hovering sense. No one cowers or hides (as I've seen on other units) upon their arrival. They are simply around for whatever you may need.

    Our manager and educator never hesitate to help on the floor when asked. They are quick to help cover lunches, hang chemo or grab a blanket for a patient. While our staffing has greatly improved over the last six months it was bad for a while. However, it would have been far worse if they were not willing to roll up their sleeves and help. Full disclosure, they were both floor nurses on this unit years ago, working their way up. So they know the demands of our busy outpatient unit well.

    Policies and procedures frequently change, but the ability to help your fellow nurse and grant a few patient requests should always be in well within your scope of practice. Being able to sense the needs of a poorly staffed unit and coming to assist is one of the biggest acknowledgements you can provide your nurses. It shows staff you are attune to their efforts and that you are not above helping to ease the overall flow and reduce stress levels. While this assistance can be difficult to provide in between your already busy work day, it certainly does not have to be a frequent occurrence. A little goes a long way. A lot of small tasks can be done with only five minutes to spare. This kind of availability can increase the trust between management and staff and can only help retain those who appreciate the extra effort.

    Recognizing Peers & Coworkers

    It sounds simple, but a quick affirmation to anyone you work with can make a huge impact and change their day. Taking a brief moment to thank someone for going the extra mile or showing support for a job well done can make those you work with feel incredibly appreciated.

    At my current position we can write each other 'kudos' cards. A stack of blank brightly colored index cards and a submission envelope are always available in the nursing lounge. Anyone from any area of the department can write or receive a 'kudos' card. At each monthly staff meeting the cards are read and each recipient is then able to pick a prize out of a basket put together by our nurse leader and educator. The best part is the prizes are actually something you might want: full size chocolate bars, lunch bags, fun post-it notes, bookmarks, etc. A small yet very meaningful ritual where gratitude is the main theme. I find the kudos cards especially helpful for those times where it's so busy that you may not have time to acknowledge someone in the moment but do not want their actions to go unnoticed.

    Sharing Ideas of Recognition

    There are so many creative ways to show your staff, peers and coworkers you care. Taking this time can change a coworkers outlook on a previously overwhelming day, change their mood, brighten their day and can also improve their future performance. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.

    What are the ways your units express gratitude and acknowledge staff? What are your ideas for new ways to maintain this culture of recognition?


    Apfelbaum, J. (2015, December 15). 10 Creative Ways To Recognize Your Employees. Retrieved from Forbes Welcome
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14, '18
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  3. by   RegularNurse
    I prefer to be recognized monetarily.
  4. by   WKShadowRN
    All of that stuff is great and right out of Quint Studer, which I used to buy into. But now I'd rather have recognition in the form of adequate staffing, being heard when I raise valid concerns, and support from TPTB when changes implemented by them are not enacting the desired result.

    Speaking of Quint Studer, I threw away my book this past weekend as I cleaned out some clutter. I've long since put away my rose colored glasses and belief that if everyone got a smiley face cookie then the environment will improve. While happy coworkers make part of the equation for a better environment, the motivation for us to be happy has to be viewed with long-term goals in mind. Platitudes today do not equal gratitude from me tomorrow.
    Last edit by WKShadowRN on Nov 22, '16
  5. by   Here.I.Stand
    I work under who I call the Ernest Shackleton of nurse managers. She supports us when conflict arises, be it with families or attending physicians. She encourages us to call security if at any moment we feel unsafe or even uncomfortable -- she recognizes that a verbally abusive family member is going to distract us from patient care. Not just physically aggressive ones. She has fought and been granted more staff during budget planning, even permission to hire during a hiring freeze. And get this: when we are critically understaffed, she and the assistant manager work the unit.

    Don't get me wrong, I love cookies. Especially when there are many of them. But how I feel appreciated is -- to use the Shackleton reference again -- to have a leader who will get in a tiny boat and row through the treacherous Antarctic oceans to help her staff. Not one who tells us to be Nurse, Waitress, Concierge, Diplomat, and Professional Gluteus Maximus Kisser...that we will like have a cookie.
  6. by   WKShadowRN
    Here.I.Stand, I think I love you.
  7. by   E-commerce
    In addition to gratitude, self esteem can also affect how you treat others. However when you are doing it for the money, humanity goes out the door.
    Last edit by E-commerce on Nov 22, '16
  8. by   Libby1987
    To above posters:

    I think OP was referring to middle managers who can only do so much to recognize staff. Can you credit a middle manager who hits the floor with you and makes an effort to give praise or recognition, as does OPs managers?

    Or does the executive management's budget for staffing really negate everything that a supportive manager does for their staff/unit? Should the middle manager just give up efforts to show appreciation?
  9. by   WKShadowRN
    Well, of course not. As a middle manager I often used my own funds (not company money) to do recognition, but it's only part of the picture and for instant gratification. Developing a safe culture and promoting an environment conducive to productivity and happy workers takes many types of input. Proactive management is one, appreciative superiors is another, among several.
  10. by   E-commerce
    Just think if the healthcare model was a "put yourself in other people's shoes" system how much of a change it will become. It will take time but again it goes back to "self"
  11. by   Libby1987
    Quote from WKShadowRN
    Well, of course not. As a middle manager I often used my own funds (not company money) to do recognition, but it's only part of the picture and for instant gratification. Developing a safe culture and promoting an environment conducive to productivity and happy workers takes many types of input. Proactive management is one, appreciative superiors is another, among several.
    I think everyone realizes that, but your previous post dismissed the OPs ideas for middle managers doing their part.

    I would rather support OP's effort into writing and submitting suggestions (for a part of the picture) then to respond with a "yeah but".
  12. by   WKShadowRN
    Fair enough. I did imply there is value in it, but I feel more value and a better investment is to invest in employees through support.
  13. by   Here.I.Stand
    Quote from WKShadowRN
    Here.I.Stand, I think I love you.
    The feeling is mutual
  14. by   WKShadowRN
    d'aww shucks.