There’s little room for debate—nurses are challenged with one of the most physically and emotionally demanding roles in today’s workforce. As the largest healthcare profession (with more than 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide), most people have a close friend or relative in the nursing field who has provided personal insight into their world.
Walking in a nurse’s shoes for a shift is not only physically exhausting (roughly 4-5 miles per 12-hour shift) but emotionally and mentally demanding as well. Managing priorities and caring for multiple patients simultaneously often leaves nurses without adequate time for meals or bathroom breaks. With a national rise in staff shortages, nurses are also required to work back-to-back or extended shifts, increasing levels of nurse exhaustion and burnout.
While solving for the nursing staff shortage or organizational budget-related issues requires complex solutions, one simple tool has been shown to significantly and directly impact the nursing culture immediately. Call it a “quick thanks” or a simple “job well done” shout out or mention—the act of meaningful recognition is so easily implemented and well appreciated, it’s surprising it’s not included in more hospitals and health systems.
What Nurses Are Saying
“Sometimes, a small gesture can truly make a big difference,” says Rachelle Busam, RN, BSN, MFA, Client Success Manager at Relias. “Nurses selflessly give themselves during every shift, to every patient, without asking for anything in return. After an especially tough day, it’s that simple act of thanks that keeps a nurse wanting to come back for their next shift.”
Throughout Rachelle’s nursing career, she worked as a front-line nurse for two different health systems, one of which truly focused on the importance of building a culture that encourages and values nurse recognition. In Rachelle’s opinion, “Being a part of a hospital that took the time to give thanks and recognize nurses for going above and beyond definitely impacted me personally and professionally.”
Even if it is a simple note of thanks from a patient or fellow nurse, no gesture is too small. “Those acts of recognition really do impact nurses, from a heartfelt thank you from a patient to a manager that does something special for their unit—even just ordering food during a hectic shift to keep their staff going and show they’re appreciated,” says Rachelle.
During her time as a frontline nurse, Rachelle received The DAISY Award® for providing excellent nursing care, and she still remembers the impact it made. She recalls, “Even when nurses are recognized in a quick and informal way, those short moments create a feeling of appreciation that stay with you forever.”
What Meaningful Recognition Represents
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 Nurses
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.”
Read more about the study and how meaningful recognition fights nurse burnout here.
The DAISY Award®
While many organizations create their own recognition programs, The DAISY Award® is known internationally and highly regarded among nurses and hospital leadership.
The DAISY Foundation was founded by the family of Patrick Barnes, who fell ill in 1999 (at the age of 33, just two months after welcoming his first child) and was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
Said his father, Mark Barnes, “We are so blessed that we were able to spend the eight weeks of his hospitalization with him and his family. During those weeks, we experienced the best of nursing.”
Shortly after Patrick’s passing, his wife developed the acronym for the nonprofit organization that we know today—DAISY, which stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem. While originally established to keep Patrick’s spirit alive and pay thanks to excellent nursing care, the DAISY Foundation has grown into an influential recognition program used internationally.
Mark noted, “At the time we started the program, we could not have anticipated that The DAISY Award® would come to be regarded as a strategic tool for nurse recruitment and retention and would be adopted by healthcare facilities all over the U.S. and beyond.”
DAISY Award recipients are nominated by their peers, physicians, patients and families, and other staff and administrators. Nurses that receive the award are presented with a certificate for being an “Extraordinary Nurse,” a DAISY Award pin, and a unique, hand-carved serpentine stone sculpture from Zimbabwe titled, “A Healer’s Touch.”
In addition to the already present and growing challenges within the healthcare industry, the new coronavirus has 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 during the current pandemic. While new pandemic-related challenges require complex solutions (solving for staffing or equipment shortages), we know that some helpful tools proven to improve nursing performance, morale, and retention are readily available for easy implementation.
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.