Nurse Recognition Is Essential During a Crisis

Meaningful nurse recognition

Nurse recruiters, managers and leaders are typically aware of the importance of providing nurses with meaningful recognition. Why? As multiple studies have reported, meaningful nurse recognition can be an essential practice for creating healthy work environments and increased job satisfaction.

“We all want to be recognized for our good work, from frontline staff to nursing leaders,” said Anne Jessie, DNP, RN, president-elect of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) and senior director of clinical operations at Evolent Health in Roanoke, Va.

Nurses need to feel valued, especially now

With regards to increasing nurse retention, one key ingredient is nurse engagement, said Deena Gilland, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, national director of AAACN and vice president and CNO at Emory Ambulatory Patient Services Operations at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

“If nurses are engaged, they’re involved in the mission, their role and how their role is optimized and appreciated,” Gilland said. “Nurses work tirelessly and not always in the limelight. Focusing on meaningful, intentional recognition for individual nurses and groups is imperative.”

Under normal conditions, providing meaningful nurse recognition is crucial for recruitment and retention. That’s even more true now during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re providing meaningful recognition, Jessie said your nurses feel valued.

“If you feel your work is valued and you’re making an impact, you’re more likely to stay with your organization,” she said. “This applies during both good and challenging times, such as when there is a management change or during a crisis like COVID-19.”

Given the fear of going to work during the pandemic, it’s essential to build trust with your staff, according to Gilland.

“Whether it is providing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or having good policies, practices and procedures in place, the time to build trust is before a crisis strikes,” she said. “They won’t come to work if they don’t trust the organization has their best interests in mind.”

Gilland pointed out that nurses are strong and courageous, but also human.

“It’s essential employers create a trust and emotional bank account with their staff,” she said. “Building trust and loyalty can be achieved with intentional and consistent design and practice every day – not just during nurses’ week.”

According to Jessie, providing meaningful recognition also increases staff morale and loyalty to an organization.

“If your staff don’t feel valued or recognized, they will leave,” she said. “On the other hand, if they feel recognized and appreciated, they will stay and feel more positive about their jobs and bring that positivity to others. It’s contagious.”

Effective recognition

There are formal and informal ways to provide recognition, according to Jessie.

“Some nurses appreciate public recognition, while others prefer a private pat on the back by their supervisor,” she said. “Effective recognition needs to be individualized for the person you want to recognize.”

Acknowledging good teamwork is important, too. “Recognizing an entire team for standing up a COVID-19 testing site in 24 hours or establishing a telephone triage line, rewards the whole team for doing an outstanding job on a new and urgent workflow process,” Jessie said.

Both Gilland and Jesse shared the following examples of structured, system-wide and formal nurse recognition methods for a job well done:

  • The DAISY Award 

  • Formal award dinners

  • Plaques

  • Certificates

  • Gift cards (monetary awards)

  • Wow wall or centrally located wall (or board) of honor

  • Staff newsletter announcements

  • Scholarships

  • Tuition reimbursement

Three examples of informal awards during this crisis include a spontaneous celebration when a COVID-19 patient is discharged from the ICU or hospital, providing lunch for staff, and staff huddles as an opportunity to recognize good work.

“While it means a lot to many nurses to have pizza parties at lunch – these are nice and everyone enjoys food – these do not replace the important, one-on-one conversations that need to take place to recognize a job well done,” Gilland said. “It’s essential to have deep, meaningful conversations verbally and to consider writing personalized thank you notes.”


COVID-19 Jobs

Nurses touch lives every day

When sharing personal messages, consider asking nurses questions such as do you realize how great a job you did? Or, do you know how many patient’s lives you impacted today?

These questions are purposeful and appropriate to share with nurses in a one-on-one situation and in groups, such as a staff meeting or daily huddle, according to Gilland.

Emory already had telehealth in place before COVID-19 hit. However, Gilland said they ramped it up with the pandemic. Emory’s ambulatory care nurses are on the front lines of these virtual visits for COVID-19 and other patients.

“Our nurses provide assessments and screenings for patients pre- and post-hospitalization, triage for COVID-19 testing and more,” she said. “They touch many patients lives every day.”

Recognizing nurses for volunteering in their communities and for nursing associations, being published or having their research accepted by an independent review board (IRB) are also essential, according to Jessie.

“Recognition in nursing is important regardless of a nurse’s role or level of practice,” she said.

What do you have planned to recognize and thank your nurses? Johns Hopkins recently released this warm tribute to their staff who have stepped up and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in extraordinary ways.