Does Your Institution Know How to Motivate Nurses?

by Jennifer Bradford on April 13, 2009

If your hospital or other employer doesn’t know how to motivate nurses, it can be hard to do your job. See how your employer measure up to this list.

With healthcare budget cuts affecting medical institutions across the country, nurses are feeling the crunch every day. Staff reductions make the workload harder for the nurses who remain, and mandatory overtime can add to the stress and physical toll.

Nurses photo by SarahMcD via Creative Commons

Hospitals and other institutions need to know how to motivate their nurses to keep them from burning out in these tough times. A little motivation can go a long way. Check out this list of simple things your employer could be doing to help motivate you, and see how they measure up.

  • Recognition for a job well done. Does your institution recognize all of your hard work? Does your nurse manager or any other member of the administration ever say “thank you” at the end of a particularly trying shift? It doesn’t cost them a penny to show you how much they appreciate you.
  • Food. It may seem trivial, but I know I always enjoyed when our nurse manager brought in food for us. Whether it’s a box of doughnuts or a basket of muffins in the morning, or a pan of pasta or a stack of pizzas in the evening, food always perked us up. Oh sure, we got to eat in the cafeteria with the kids on the unit every shift, but it was always nice to be able to relax for a few minutes and eat something special.
  • Continuing education. You don’t want to feel like your career is completely stagnant, so it’s nice to be able to add to your skill set and knowledge base with different classes. Are you given the opportunity to attend grand rounds or other educational opportunities? Does your institution offer tuition reimbursement so you can register for classes elsewhere? Education benefits both you and your employer because it makes you a better nurse.
  • Birthday cards. Sometimes it seems that administration forgets that nurses are people, too. You’re not just a warm body that can be plugged into the schedule each week. Giving out birthday cards isn’t a huge gesture, but it can make you feel good to know that your employer recognizes you as a person. If birthday cake is involved, that’s even more of a bonus!
  • Team building. Does your employer do anything to help promote unit cohesion? It can be extremely stressful if you’re in an environment where it seems like it’s every nurse for himself or herself. Team building exercises can be fun for you and your coworkers; they can help you get to know the people you work with and learn to work together better.
  • Communication. Good administrators will keep the communication lines open for you so that you feel comfortable coming to them when problems arise. They should also be honest with you about your performance and let you know if there are any areas in which you can improve. It’s a terrible thing to go into a performance review and find out that your employer has been unsatisfied with your work but hasn’t given you any feedback previously to get you back on the right track.
  • Respect. Respect touches on several of the previous motivational tools, but it deserves a separate mention as well. When your superior has something negative to say to you, does she take you aside to do it in private, or does she do it in front of other people? Does she take credit for your hard work? If you aren’t getting the respect you deserve as a person, it’s hard to do your job well.

How does your place of employment measure up? If you think you’re getting what you need from your employer, that’s great! If you don’t feel motivated to do your best, it may be time to move on.


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