The performance appraisal – what is it about this annual exercise that causes managers to hold their temples and the rest of the staff to go weak in their knees? After all, it’s just simply a matter of aligning individual staff performance with the goals of the strategic plan. This most wondrous of documents, The Strategic Plan might be found pinned to the notice board in the tea room – the whole 10 pages. This makes for a really relaxing read during the nurses’ lunch break, and because your unit is so well staffed, there’s plenty of time during the shift for the nurses to ponder the link between their act of assisting a patient/resident in the shower, for example, and the strategic goal of ensuring “the effective and efficient use of resources in the delivery of health services to our community…” – easy!
Now, back to the real world. How can this bothersome and burdensome task be made a little easier and regarded in the positive light that it’s meant to be?
Some Hints For Managers:
- With your manager/leader colleagues, take those strategic plan goals relevant to your unit and translate them into simply worded unit/ward plan with goals that all the staff can understand and relate to and which are achievable within the nurses’ skills set or scope of practice. Not all nurses have a degree in health policy and planning so keep it simple.
- Make sure this localised plan is discussed in detail at staff meetings till all the staff understand its contents and what your unit is aiming for, then put it in a place that’s accessible.
- Don’t use the performance review as a punitive exercise. Remember this is an exercise in forward performance planning, not tardy reprimands. This isn’t the time to bring up the incident where Nurse Jane assisted a patient up the bed without using the slide sheets – that should have been addressed earlier.
- Ensure that all staff have a current role description and thoroughly understand their key responsibilities and accountabilities. There are nurses out there who confuse their duties list with the role description. (If you don’t believe me, just ask a few.)
- Don’t send the staff home with a 4 – 6 page template for them to complete/self-assess. Nurses have busy lives outside work and this sort of ‘homework’ causes resentment. Make an appointment to go through and complete the paperwork with them as there will be a need for prompting, encouragement and support. Most employees (not just nurses) have difficulty describing for example, how their day to day performance demonstrates the core values of the ward/unit/facility/organisation.
- Assist the staff to identify their learning goals, and diplomatically point out areas that may need improving, all the while making sure that learning/training opportunities are identified and ensuring they will be facilitated.
- Identify a particular strength of the nurse and assist her/him to develop a quality activity proposal that will result in an improved patient/resident/unit outcome. With your demonstrated belief in that nurse, s/he will feel invigorated and committed, and don’t forget to assist the nurse with the quality activity when required.
- Once both parties have completed the appraisal, you will probably make a review date appointment six months hence. In the meantime, the occasional ‘how’s it going?’, will remind the staff that the initial discussion has not been forgotten and the paperwork not banished to the filing cabinet. It will also remind the staff that performance improvement is continuous and importantly, you are interested in them and the positive contribution they are making.
Christine (RN, BN, MPHC) is an RN with 40 years experience, traversing the profession as an AIN, EN, RN, RM N.ED. to DON. She is currently in transition-to-retirement and working as a casual RN on the floor in a small rural hospital with an aged care facility attached. Her interests are aged care and particularly nurses; their working relationships, team dynamics and how nurse leaders and managers deal with the day to day complexities of leading and managing.