Meaningful Recognition in Nursing Impacts Retention

While solving for the nursing staff shortage or organizational budget-related issues requires complex solutions, meaningful recognition has been shown to significantly and directly impact nurses and their organizations.

Meaningful recognition in nursing basics

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) notes that a healthy work environment (HWE) enables nurses to provide the highest standards of compassionate patient care while being fulfilled at work. As one of the six HWE standards, meaningful recognition includes not only nurses being recognized, but also nurses recognizing others for the value each brings to the work of the organization. According to the AACN, critical elements for organizations to truly implement meaningful recognition include having a:

  • Comprehensive system in place with a formal process for a sustainable focus on recognizing all team members’ contribution and value to the organization.
  • Systemic process for all team members to learn about the recognition system and be aware of how to participate.
  • Recognition system that truly reaches from the “bedside to the boardroom” and allows individuals to be recognized with their personal definition of meaning, fulfillment, development, and advancement throughout the different stages of their career.
  • Method in which team members can be nominated for recognition in local, regional, and national venues.
  • Process or processes in place to validate that the recognition is meaningful to those being acknowledged.
  • Routine check to comprehensively evaluate the recognition system, ensuring its effectiveness to promote a sustainable culture of excellence.

Concurrently, it is equally important that individuals understand that everyone within the organization is responsible for playing an active role in the recognition program.

Study shows meaningful recognition’s impact on nursing

To examine the effect of meaningful recognition programs on compassion fatigue, Lesly A. Kelly, RN, PhD, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University in Phoenix, and colleagues conducted a multicenter national study of critical care nurses. An online survey was completed by 726 ICU nurses in 14 hospitals with an established meaningful recognition program, and 410 nurses in 10 hospitals without such a program.

“Meaningful recognition was a significant predictor of decreased burnout and increased compassion satisfaction,” Kelly and colleagues concluded. “Additionally, job satisfaction and job enjoyment were highly predictive of decreased burnout, decreased secondary traumatic stress, and increased compassion satisfaction. … In addition to acknowledging and valuing nurses’ contributions to care, meaningful recognition could reduce burnout and boost compassion satisfaction.”

Compassion fatigue was defined as a “combination of burnout, psychological and physiological responses to prolonged chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors, and secondary traumatic stress.” To counter these effects, there are programs like DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System), a foundation established by the parents of a patient who died of an immune disorder. To honor the clinical skill and compassionate care of the nurses involved, they created the DAISY Foundation in 1999.

In the study, nurses were asked about overall job satisfaction, enjoyment, stress, and intent to leave their position and profession.

“For nurses in the sample, burnout was predicted by increased job stress, decreased job satisfaction, and decreased job enjoyment,” Kelly and colleagues reported. “Meaningful recognition through a nomination for [a] DAISY Award was negatively predictive of burnout, meaning that those with a nomination reported lower burnout.”

This DAISY model of standardized meaningful recognition of nurses is now used in over 5,400 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing in all 50 states and 33 other countries and territories.

Addressing nursing retention

In addition to the already present and growing challenges within the healthcare industry, the pandemic added unforeseen difficulties for healthcare workers. Nurses, who make up the largest sector of the healthcare industry, are undoubtedly struggling to find a new normal following COVID-19.

Meaningful recognition for nurses can make an immediate impact on improving a hospital’s or health system’s culture and is perhaps needed now more than ever before. This small step will go a long way in letting nurses know how much they’re appreciated — by fellow healthcare workers, patients, and patients’ families. Having a recognition system in place, such as The DAISY Award, sets an organization up for success with minimal effort.

Understanding what matters most to nurses is key, as nurses are in a position to actively seek out organizations that meet their needs, such as prioritizing meaningful recognition programs. Additionally, nurses that feel appreciated and supported will be more likely to stay with an organization throughout their career.

To learn more about what matters to nurses in their careers, you can review the findings within the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.

Download the report here.