Drawing on her own varied experiences, Rachel talks about the importance of recognition for nurses and how it’s given, as well as sharing her top tips for recognition in the workplace.
The definition of recognition is “acknowledgement of the existence, validity, or legality of something.” In nursing, recognition can come in many different forms and be either for an individual, group or department.
My Experience Of Recognition On The Ward
My first job in a haematology department meant that a lot of our work was acknowledged on different social media platforms and fund-raising events as it was linked to a leukaemia charity. Staff often featured in posts about equipment or donations made to the ward through the charity which in turn raised awareness of blood cancers and other disorders.
Because of the nature of the nursing I was doing and the length of time we treated patients, you sometimes formed a closer bond with some families more than others and shared in the highs and lows of their cancer journey. There were a couple of occasions when I was able to go above and beyond for some patients to help them get through the challenges of treatment.
One situation I remember was when I helped a girl not much older than myself choose a wig, as her hair was falling out and she was really struggling. We had great fun trying on all the different styles and she got the confidence to choose something completely different which gave her a real boost of confidence. She wrote me a note a few days letter thanking me, and saying how much it helped her overcome a really rough patch.
Another time that I remember fondly is when I smuggled a patient’s cat onto the ward. He was really missing him and wasn’t likely to get better so wanted to see him one last time; of course, my manager caught me but was more amused than annoyed that I had managed to keep it quiet! When that patient died his wife wrote me a lovely card and even signed it from the cat too!
Probably the biggest example of recognition that I got during this job was when I organised for a couple to get married through an emergency license and rapid discharge. This was a really emotional and challenging task and not entirely in my job description, but I felt strongly that patients should receive all the help we can give to fulfil their last wishes.
A few weeks later I was sent a card and photographs of the wedding and was told the patient had died not long after but was so very happy that she had managed to get married first. All of these personal acts of recognition meant a huge amount to me and really affirmed why I went into nursing in the first place.
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Recognition In A Hospice Setting
When I moved to the hospice, again I was working in a place that already had a lot of publicity surrounding it and a big part of the job was showcasing the work we did in order to raise vital funds for the charity. I became part of the communication and marketing team as well as a nurse, which meant my photo was used alongside patients and other staff as advertising and to share patient stories and experiences.
Although my face appeared regularly on the website and various literature, the personal recognition from patients was less here. There was always a lot of praise for each individual team within the charity, but as you were looking after terminal patients for a relatively short space of time, the individual recognition didn’t happen as often. Although I continued to try and go above and beyond to make patients last days special and comfortable, I didn’t receive the same number of cards or individual recognition as before.
I had to remind myself that I didn’t go into nursing just for that reason and that every act of care I gave a patient was done with love and compassion and it didn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops. After all, I was part of a big team of fantastic nurses all doing their part. It was humbling.
Patients and families still regularly thanked me for the care and those small words and quick hugs or squeeze of a hand, which meant more to me than the most elaborate card or declaration.
Many people couldn’t do the job we do, and you should be proud!
Lack Of Recognition In Nursing Homes
When I moved to a nursing home, I got a bit of a shock as I realised just how underappreciated nurses in that setting are. Gone was the publicity and charity recognition and instead I was faced with many challenging families, dementia patients who didn’t know who I was, and management who were just trying to keep enough staff to stay afloat.
Again, I had to remind myself that I was there to make a difference no matter how small and regardless of whether it was noticed or not. However, I did feel the lack of appreciation from the senior management team at times a challenge. I feel strongly that your staff should always feel supported and told when they are doing a good job, not just when things aren’t going well.
I decided that every day I would encourage at least one of my colleagues and make a point of pointing out when I felt they were doing a good job either by the way they were interacting with a resident or how they handled a challenging shift.
This really lifted me as well as I started to see people responding really positively to the comments, however small, and it began to catch on and lift morale during difficult periods.
What Do You Think?
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Top Tips For Recognition In The Workplace
My tips on recognition in the workplace would be:
1. Don’t ever feel that just because something you have done hasn’t been publicly recognised that’s doesn’t mean you haven’t made a difference.
2. Keep a note of times when you have felt you’ve gone above and beyond, it’s good for revalidation reflections; it can help you through tough times when you might be burnt out, even if no one else sees it.
3. When people say “oh I could never be a nurse” take this as a compliment! Many people couldn’t do the job we do, and you should be proud!
4. If you get the chance to have your name or picture out in the public eye because of your job then do it! It can give you a real confidence boost and any good news stories from the NHS or private healthcare is a bonus.
5. Make sure you are having regular supervisions and appraisals with your manager and getting some feedback on your work.
6. If you are feeling a little underappreciated, then chances are your colleagues are too. So be the person that lifts someone else up for doing a good job. Nursing is a challenging job, and we all need a little boost from time to time.
Thank you for reading!