Editor-in-Chief, Associate Executive Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, Lenox Hill Hospital/North Shore-LIJ Health System, New York, N.Y.
Organizations that value their staff live it every day, not just at special events.
Besides the joy of spring flowers, May brings Nurses Week. You've probably spent months planning recognition activities for your staff, and I suspect you may be wondering, “What about me?” Sometimes, as nurse leaders, we feel left out. After all, you aren't just serving food to staff at Nurses Week events; you're serving a much bigger picture—our workforce, each other, the entire team, your patients, and their families—every single day. A life of service indeed deserves appreciation.
The role of the frontline nurse manager is one of the most pivotal in the organization. You create the culture for practice in your unit by setting the tone and expectations. Your relentless drive keeps everyone focused on what's right. Initiatives, goals, and projects fail without local leadership. You translate reality up and down the organizational tree, and you keep the workforce at the point of care strong. There are infinite reasons for admiring the work of nurse leaders.
As a strong leader, you know that recognition goes a long way and is an important part of our management toolkit. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses identified meaningful recognition as one of the six major components of a healthy workplace environment in its seminal Standards for Establishing and Sustaining Healthy Work Environments in 2001. Feeling valued leads to increased commitment and dedication to the work we do. It isn't really about trinkets or gift cards, although they're nice; it's about authenticity, values, and that unmistakable good feeling. Organizations that value their staff live it every day, not just at special events. Being appreciated for your work should extend from the bedside to the boardroom.
If you aren't incorporating recognition into your daily activities, you should be. And, in return, you should feel valued for your own contributions. If you don't, maybe you aren't in the right place or position. Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs? The fourth tier, esteem, includes respect by and for others. It's only one step from the apex—self-actualization—meaning that esteem is foundational to the human soul.
Occasionally we forget that recognition also takes the form of professional development and growth. Opportunities for learning, certifications, academic education, promotions, mentorships, and project leadership acknowledge your potential and contributions. These opportunities also give you a forum for visibility and even praise—a win-win for both you and your employer.
I know you enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that you feel after being acknowledged for your efforts or a job well done. Every compliment you give results in the same feeling multiplied over and over. Just as you've often heard that there's never too much communication, the same is true for appreciation. Recognition always feels nice but, of course, it has to be deserved and not perfunctory. The real thing builds engagement and creates value whether for an individual or a team, for processes or outcomes, for big or little accomplishments—for whatever you and your organization regard highly. Some prefer to be recognized publicly, others privately; some like pizza parties, some don't. Knowing your receiver makes a difference.
Be proud. Your impact is enormous. Feeling great about your work is a reward in itself. I sincerely hope you feel valued for your contributions. I salute you and thank you during Nurses Week, and always!