Nursing Appreciation: Organizational Success and the Ripple Effect

Bedside nursing is demanding. Nurses routinely balance heavy physical labor with high-stakes critical thinking under tight time constraints.

While physical endurance is important for nurses in their roles, they also need great interpersonal skills to comfort patients and families and build trusting relationships. Leaders recognize the critical work nurses do but may struggle to communicate that recognition effectively.

Instead of feeling appreciation and acknowledgment for hard work, nursing staff can feel a disconnect from their leaders — leaving nurses and leaders at odds with each other despite sharing the goal of great patient care. But meaningful nursing appreciation can make a big impact.

The business impact of nursing appreciation

When leaders acknowledge nurses effectively, they inspire ownership and a sense of pride. This creates an engaged workforce that understands and shares the organization’s mission and goals. The benefits of engagement spread in a ripple effect to many areas, from productivity to recruitment and retention.

Meaningful recognition is an accepted good business practice. Research by Gallup found that if hospitals doubled the recognition they gave, they could increase productivity by 9%, leading to a gain of $114,094,737 per year for a hospital with 10,000 employees.

The business effect goes beyond productivity, too. In a strong culture of recognition, employees value their work, tend to have better relationships and look out for each other more, leading to a 22% reduction in both safety incidents and absenteeism.

Appreciation for nurses supports quality care

According to Gallup, workplace recognition is directly linked to enhanced nurse engagement. A single nurse who feels appreciated, motivated, and engaged can inspire everyone around them. They provide excellent patient care with positivity. Other nurses see it and want to do the same. The more nurses act on this motivation, the farther the effect spreads — leading to better unit morale, reduced turnover, and improved patient outcomes.

Good teamwork spreads too. When an engaged nurse helps their coworkers, they tend to reciprocate or pay it forward, shifting the unit culture. Good teamwork is a critical component of patient safety. It improves communication, reduces medical error, and helps nurses meet patient care demands. Research shows that improved teamwork leads to a better culture of safety and better outcomes. These effects can transform the organization and reach areas beyond nursing staff.

Nursing appreciation: The impact on recruitment

Leaders agree that recruitment and retention are the current top concerns for hospitals. Research shows that engagement is closely tied to retention, making a clear business case for inspiring engagement through recognition. But can appreciation for nurses affect recruitment, too?

It’s natural to assume that an engaged, happy workforce will spread the word, making recruitment easier. The power of recognition to attract nurses is documented. The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program recognizes hospitals with excellent nursing cultures. These cultures should have the “Forces of Magnetism” — qualities that attract nurses — based on the Magnet program. One force recognized in the program: the “Image of Nursing,” requires public and internal recognition to support a respected professional nursing image.

“Magnetism” works. Hospitals that achieve Magnet designation by developing these forces reported they had an easier time recruiting nurses.

What is meaningful recognition and how do you use it?

With such far-reaching effects, it makes sense to invest in nursing recognition. But putting the intent into practice can be challenging. Nurses may be accustomed to generic, half-hearted recognition or recognition efforts used to make amends for a bad shift. At first, they may feel that recognition is insincere or an attempt to buy them off.

Fortunately, leaders can make nursing appreciation meaningful with consistent, sincere efforts. Recognition that makes a difference goes beyond the occasional “thank you” or kudos in yearly employee evaluations. It needs to become part of the daily practices of the organization.

To give meaningful, personalized recognition, leaders must learn about individual staff. Some nurses may thrive on public acknowledgment, such as a social media post about an achievement or announcement in an all-employee meeting. Others may prefer to keep it more private with a handwritten note or gift card.

The simplest way to find out is to ask! Leaders can ask current nurses to fill out a survey and use the responses to personalize recognition efforts. Recruiters can start these conversations during discovery calls and use the opportunity to tell prospective employees about the recognition program.

Nurse recognition ideas

Sincere recognition should be a specific, timely acknowledgment that’s personalized and appropriate to the achievement. Here are some ideas for leaders that go beyond pizza in the breakroom:

  • Post about a nursing achievement on the organization’s social media.
  • Make an announcement through a hospital-wide email or meeting.
  • Create a peer recognition program to help the culture of recognition reach through the organization.
  • Send a handwritten thank-you note to a nurse for picking up extra work or responsibility.
  • Meet with a nurse to recognize their growth and offer professional development to support them.
  • Host an event, such as lunch, dinner, or an ice cream social to celebrate a group accomplishment.
  • Take a nurse out to lunch if public recognition isn’t their style.
  • Give a gift card as a tangible token of appreciation for hard work.

Additionally, structured recognition like the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses can be a great addition to an organization’s recognition program. Research shows the DAISY Award increases nurse engagement, contributes to a healthy work environment, and improves patient satisfaction.

Using nursing appreciation to support recruitment

To take advantage of the effects of recognition in recruitment conversations, recruiters can give prospective nurses an example of how the organization has recognized nurses for a recent achievement. If you’re an internal recruiter, try participating in the peer recognition program, and talk about how you have used it personally. These are great ways to describe the culture of recognition and show that nursing is celebrated.

Nursing appreciation benefits the entire healthcare system. When leaders see and acknowledge the hard work nurses do, everyone from staff to patients experiences the positive impacts.

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