If you hear someone say, ‘i’m only here for the money,’ then they’re probably feeling dissatisfied and unappreciated. Money is not a prime motivator to choose nursing as a career. You can quite possibly earn as much in another job without the hassles of shift work, working and/or being on call on public holidays and weekends, and definitely in one that is less draining emotionally.
What people want from their jobs is to feel appreciated and valued, and have high self-esteem. Yet so many staff knock off from their shifts exhausted and dissatisfied with the level of care they provided, be it compromised perhaps by an inability to replace staff off sick, or a sudden rise in patient/resident acuity not matched with an increase in staffing numbers/skills mix. Worse still, and adding salt into the wound, the staff possibly knock off without a word of thanks in recognition for their endeavours and it is this that lowers work related morale rather than the exhausting workload itself.
Raise Workers’ Self-Esteem
- Say ‘thank you’ because a little ‘thanks’ goes a long way. Staff need to feel appreciated for the work they do, not unappreciated because of what they could not complete, which in reality is more likely to be caused by a resource issue in the unit (human or material) rather than a performance issue on the part of the individual nurse.
- Pass on a positive comment. It is often during rounds that the patient/resident tells you, for example, ‘how nice Nurse ‘X’ was in finding my glasses and cleaning them’, or a visitor told you how happy they are with their loved one’s care. Pass on these comments as they happen, and then collectively at every staff meeting.
- Communicate your authority in a non-threatening manner by using positive body language, facial expressions and a pleasant tone of voice. The words you use and the manner in which you deliver the message will reinforce the regard, or lack thereof, you have for your staff.
- Sharing cake and other treats. As the senior nurse it will only cost you a few dollars per month to place an assortment pack of cream biscuits or some crackers and a couple of dips in the staff dining room. No words need to be spoken, the staff will know it is from you and it is another way you are showing your appreciation.
- Pad the negative with the positive. Which would you rather hear? ‘You’ve missed the whole point of the exercise…’ or ‘So far so good, you may need to focus a bit more on such and such but you’re getting there, great!’ The latter comment is more likely to instil enthusiasm to keep on going, whereas the former may cause the staff member to retreat and be less than lukewarm about taking on any projects in the future.
- Round up the staff to go home with a smile on their faces. If you’re the RN in charge of the shift, don’t bolt for the door at 3.30 pm while some of your staff may still be completing patient care or their paperwork. You should be the last to leave the shift.
When you think about it, there’s probably no greater contributing factor to workplace health and harmony than happy staff.
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.