What Nurses Really Want for National Nurses Week (Hint: It’s not pizza parties)

nurse looking intently at orders

Believe it or not, we’re fast approaching the annual celebration of National Nurses Week (May 6 – 12). Yes, we all know that showing gratitude for nurses shouldn’t be limited to one week or month a year because they make a tremendous difference in their patients’ lives and impact our communities every single day (and then some). 

But in the wake of a global pandemic, with nurse burnout and resignations at an all-time high, what exactly is your company doing to honor and support nursing staff each and every day

Put down that plate of cookies, cancel the pizza lunch delivery, and return the “I Heart Nurses” Yeti mug gifts, because the recognition nurses want has nothing to do with food, swag, or platitudes. 

what nurses want for national nurses week

Set them up for success inside and outside of work

Healthcare workers are often asked to do more and more with less and less, making them question their calling of caring for and helping people. They’re giving their all in an increasingly volatile environment, yet not getting their basic needs met. This perpetuates a cycle of stress, burnout, and resignation.  

How can you set them up for success? Read on to hear what nurses really want (and deserve).

Pay what they’re worth + annual retention bonuses

They’re hailed as essential, but does their pay reflect that?

Travel nursing has always been lucrative, even before the pandemic, but if you can afford to pay travel nurses top dollar while your existing staff pay is flat, there is no loyalty or reason for them to stay.

Offering sign-on bonuses for new employees? Consider retention bonuses for existing employees who are already in the trenches and have remained loyal through the pandemic.

nurse collaboration and shared decision making

Collaboration and shared decision-making

C-Suite staff making decisions in a vacuum without influence from frontline workers has long been a sticking point not just in healthcare, but in just about any industry. Undoubtedly, this practice has contributed to the Great Resignation. People are fed up with not being heard, valued, and included in the decisions that directly affect them. 

To figure out what will make your nurses stay and bring joy back to their chosen profession, they need to be involved in influencing the decision-making that affects clinical staff.

Bring them from the bedside to the boardroom and watch change happen for the better.

Work-life balance

Kay, a surgical technologist in labor and delivery, requested a day off for a friend’s wedding three months in advance and was quickly denied. “I thought I gave enough notice that it’d be covered, but to have one day denied almost immediately felt like a slap in the face.”

Meanwhile, healthcare workers are constantly asked to pick up extra shifts or work overtime. “We rack up all this PTO per hours worked, but can never use it all unless we ask for it a year in advance and hope for the best. How am I supposed to plan out my private life months in advance? It’s beyond frustrating,” Kay said.

This kind of imbalance harbors resentment and ire. It may seem counter-intuitive during a staffing shortage, but granting time off needs to be a reality and priority for the mental well-being of your clinical staff.

overworked clinical staff need time off  for mental well-being

Sufficient Staffing = Safer Practice

Of all the cost-cutting measures that can be made, don’t skimp where it matters most: staffing levels. Numerous studies show that increased staffing equates to higher quality of care and decreases the patient’s length of stay, both positively impacting the bottom line

Psychological well-being

Harvard Business Review defines psychological safety as “the confidence that candor and vulnerability are welcome”. If employees don’t feel psychologically safe at work – meaning, they don’t feel like they can share their concerns, ideas, or disagreements without fear or retaliation – make an organizational commitment to address it.

Adopt (and enforce) a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and retaliation. Teach and practice dialogue skills. Make it a competitive advantage.

a psychologically safe nurse is a happy nurse

Commit to changing for the better

This National Nurses Week, make the commitment to turn the nurse staffing shortage around by starting from the inside out. We cannot continue to do things the same way and expect different results. 

The best way to honor and recognize nurses and clinical staff is to set them up for success in and out of the workplace. Give them a seat at the table when decisions are being made and show them gratitude, respect, and kindness.

Make their work environment enticing and joyful again. It won’t be easy and there isn’t a quick fix, but it will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Your nurses will thank you.

Sources: Becker’s Hospital Review, Nurse Erica, ANA

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