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Professional Insights

Make Time for Meaningful Recognition

Showing appreciation has huge impact on love of nursing

By Natalie Vaughn
t’s a well-known fact that nursing is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging professions.
Caring for multiple patients and multitasking often leaves nurses without adequate time for necessities like meals or bathroom breaks. With a national rise in staff shortages, nurses are also required to work extra shifts, increasing the chances of exhaustion and burnout.
While remedying the nursing shortage requires complex solutions that a single entity such as a hospital or school system can’t solve on its own, 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 acknowledgement — any meaningful recognition is so easily executed and well appreciated, it’s surprising that this commonsense practice is not included in more hospitals and health systems’ protocols.

Meaningful Recognition Comes in All Sizes

“Sometimes, a small gesture can truly make a big difference,” said Rachelle Busam, BSN, RN, 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 Busam’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 Busam’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.”
And no gesture is too small. “Those acts of recognition really do impact nurses, from a heartfelt thank you from a patient to a manager who does something special for their unit — even just ordering food during a hectic shift to keep their staff going and show they’re appreciated,” said Busam.
During her time as a front-line nurse, Busam received The DAISY Award (profiled below)  for providing excellent nursing care, and she still remembers how it made her feel. “Even when nurses are recognized in a quick and informal way, those short moments create a feeling of appreciation that stay with you forever,” she recalled.

Study Shows Meaningful Recognition’s Impact on Nurses

To examine the effect of meaningful recognition programs on compassion fatigue, Lesly A. Kelly, PhD, RN, 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.”

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.
Shortly after Patrick’s passing, Bonnie and Mark Barnes 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.”

Key Takeaways

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 arguably 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 sets an organization up for success with minimal effort.
Natalie Vaughn, MBA, is Senior Content Marketing Manager at from Relias. Vaughn partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes.