HealthMay 08, 2023

Recognizing nurse leaders: Creating a healthy work environment and a culture of appreciation

By: Collette Bishop Hendler, RN, MS, MA, CIC
Recognizing nurse health leaders is meaningful for the person being recognized and also provides motivation to others.

A healthy work environment not only helps nurses provide high-quality, compassionate care; it also improves job satisfaction. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) reports that when units implement healthy work environment standards, they outperform units that don’t. Not only is the overall health of the work environment better but they have better staff retention, better staffing, less moral distress, and lower rates of workplace violence.

Six standards for a healthy work environment

AACN recognizes six standards for creating and maintaining a healthy work environment. Let’s take a quick look at those standards.

  1. Skilled communication — nurses need to communicate effectively with all members of the healthcare team.
  2. True collaboration — nurses must pursue and foster collaboration.
  3. Effective decision making — nurses must partner in policy development, directing and evaluating patient care, and leading operations within the organization.
  4. Appropriate staffing — staffing must match patient needs to nurse competency.
  5. Meaningful recognition — nurses must be recognized and recognize others for their individual contributions to the organization.
  6. Authentic leadership — nurse leaders must embrace the importance of a healthy work environment, live it authentically, and engage others to do the same.

Focus on recognition

While each of these six standards is essential for a healthy work environment, let’s take some time in the second week of Nurses Month to focus on the standard that supports this week’s theme: recognition. Each year in preparation for Nurses Month we focus on staff recognition. What can we do this year to recognize staff contributions? What can we do that we haven’t recently done to show our appreciation? But, what are we doing to recognize other nurse leaders? Nurse leaders need recognition for their contributions too.

What can we do to recognize nurse leaders?

There are various types of recognition, but meaningful recognition recognizes someone’s actions, and their impact on others. It comes from patients, families, staff, peers, board members, and others within the organization.

Years ago, when I was covering the oncology unit as an infection preventionist, the nurse manager came up to me while I made rounds. I’d known him for years, back when he worked in materials management. I don’t know what inspired him that day, but he told me that I was one of the reasons he left materials management to become a nurse. He said he watched me interact with a mother and her teenage son in the surgical-trauma intensive care unit. The patient, comatose after sustaining a closed head injury in a motor vehicle crash, experienced a sudden rise in his intracranial pressure. The nurse manager said he knew then that he wanted to become a nurse. That moment of recognition still carries me through rough days. It wasn’t formal, but it was recognition from the heart.

Send a note

If you notice other nurse leaders going above and beyond, consider sending them a note or an email showing that you’ve noticed their hard work. A small note of thanks can go a long way.

Acknowledge an act of kindness

As the saying goes: if you see something, say something right away. Immediate recognition of an act of kindness or compassion allows the person to be recognized in the moment before the act gets forgotten. Recognition commonly feels more motivating when given instantly.

Praise peers in public

Recognize other nurse leaders publicly. Does your institution have a newsletter or internet site to recognize nurse leaders? Recognize a peer with public praise. Public recognition not only recognizes the leader who’s getting recognized, but it also provides motivation for others to follow.

Remember, as nurse leaders we need to care for ourselves, so we can care for those who depend on us, our patients, families, staff, and peers. What are you doing to recognize other nurse leaders in your organization?

Explore Resources For Nurse Leaders
Collette Bishop Hendler, RN, MS, MA, CIC
Editor-in-Chief, Lippincott Solutions, Point-of-Care, Wolters Kluwer Health
Collette is certified by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. as an infection preventionist. She has more than 15 years of experience in critical care nursing and maintains Alumnus Status as a Critical-Care Registered Nurse.
Lippincott® Solutions
Our best-in-class suite of evidence-based, institutional software can help you to balance clinical and business needs by streamlining workflow, standardizing care, and improving reimbursable patient outcomes.
Back To Top