Beyond Nurses Week: How (and Why) to Nurture Nurses

National Nurses Week was staged last month. It was a time for health care organizations everywhere to toss metaphorical rose petals on those women and men who keep those operations running smoothly.

That’s great, no one is more deserving of a week of recognition and thanks. But if hospitals and other health care providers focus on their nurses only once a year, they’re missing a big, big opportunity.

Nurses are the heart and soul of everything you do. Pay close attention to their wants and needs, and take meaningful steps to address them, and you can transform your entire organization. When nurses are happy, patients are happy — and everything else naturally falls into place.

Here are five more good reasons to nurture the nurses who nurture your patients:

  • They regularly carry out lifesaving procedures. Nurses must do everything right: communicate vital information accurately, keep rooms clean and sterile, ensure that monitors are working, and so forth. Everything they do, down to the smallest action, is hugely significant;
  • They connect with families. Just as much as patients, families depend on nurses. They depend on nurses to care for their loved ones, to keep them informed, to provide emotional comfort. (Remember, “client experience” is just as much about families as it is about the patients themselves);
  • They function as the ‘eyes & ears’ of doctors. Because they’re constantly in and out of the patients’ rooms, they pick up nuances of patient behavior that doctors may not notice. They know when someone is uncomfortable or unhappy — and their vigilance often saves lives;
  • They are a hospital’s information source for everyone. Patients and family members may not know when visiting hours are . . . or where the cafeteria is located . . . or that smoking isn’t allowed on the premises . . . or that children aren’t allowed on certain floors. Nurses must constantly share the little details that keep your organization humming smoothly along;
  • They are your first line of public relations. Your nurses are the face patients put on your hospital. If they remember nothing else, they’ll remember the kind smile and attentive ways of the nurses who cared for them.
    . . . and five great ways to do it:
  • Practice the fine art of managing up. ‘Managing up’ means positioning people well. It means constantly looking for ways to accentuate the positive and build good will. Also, it’s a practical tool for reinforcing specific behaviors. You might publicly praise a high-performing nurse in front of her peers: ‘Margie, you did an outstanding job managing the accreditation meeting this morning.’ Another great way to manage up is to praise nurses in front of patients and their family members:This is Linda, one of our most outstanding RNs. She will take very good care of Justin — he is in great hands’;
  • Round on your nurses. Health care leaders should make contact with all types of employees, but particularly front-line nurses, every single day. It’s called ‘rounding.’ For an hour a day, touch base with your nurses in their everyday environment. Walk up to them and ask very specific questions: Is there anything we can do better? Do you have the tools and equipment you need to do the job? Then, do everything in your power to give them what they need;
  • Deal with your low performers and understand the impact they have on a nursing team. Great nurses want to work with other great nurses and are extremely frustrated by low performers. Don’t be afraid to let disruptive people go. If you don’t, these low performers will affect your high performers, causing them to 1) leave the organization, 2) channel their positive energies into outside interests, or 3) pace themselves and slow down;
  • Send thank-you notes to nurses when they do a great job. Nothing garners as much genuine appreciation and sense of pride as a personal acknowledgment of a job well done. Keep your eyes open for your hospital’s ‘superstars,’ nurses who go above and beyond the call of duty. You might also encourage other leaders to regularly E-mail you about nurses who deserve a compliment. Ask them to include details so that you can write a descriptive message thanking the nurse for his or her contribution. Make sure the note is handwritten and mailed home — typed letters or E-mails won’t cut it! Also, share stories of nurses who go ‘above and beyond’ any time you get the chance. Not only will this inspire the “superstars” to keep up the good work, it will also inspire others to raise the bar in their own work;
  • Understand the connection between employee satisfaction and the bottom line. Remember, satisfied employees are always better performers. When employees feel appreciated and recognized by their leaders, they seek out opportunities to do good things for the company and its customers. They think like owners, not renters. Remind yourself that nurturing your nurses is not just a ‘nice thing to do.’ There is a real, solid, measurable bottom-line payoff;
  • Start implementing these tools and techniques right away. Making this commitment at the executive level is a great way to move well beyond National Nurses Week. Yes, catered lunches and thank-you banners are nice — and certainly appreciated — but creating a high-performance organization is the best way to reward your nurses. You’re empowering them to do their jobs better . . . and that’s what they really want.”

Quint Studer is a former hospital president and founder of The Studer Group SM; (828) 459-9637.

Comments are closed.