Promoting Nurse Job Satisfaction and Retention through Awards & Recognition


Promoting Nurse Job Satisfaction and Retention through Awards & Recognition

Many nurses do not feel their work is rewarded. Here are ways to show appreciation.

By Crystal Barker, MSN, RN-BC, PHN, CRRN and Jenice Guzman, APRN, BC
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Many nurses do not feel their work is rewarded or appreciated. In a study that included nurses from across the United States, this question was asked: “I am rewarded in such a way that I feel motivated to perform the work expected,” an astonishing 62 percent of the respondents answered “false” (Best Practice Institute,, 2003). Sadly, this is not an uncommon response from nursing staff when asked about recognition of their work. In this era of nursing shortage, healthcare employers need to utilize effective tools to retain staff and embrace recognition and reward as a critical component of nursing retention and job satisfaction.

A Formal Nursing Awards & Recognition Committee Can Help

An effective method of addressing this area is to create a formal Nursing Awards & Recognition Committee within the facility. In the Department of Veterans Affairs, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS), we formed such a committee that has been in existence for more than five years. Previously, formal recognition of VAGLAHS staff nurses was minimal due to lack of time/effort from staff, lack of knowledge of available awards and due dates, and lack of coordination. The committee helped by disseminating award information, identifying potential nominees, and facilitating the write-up for nomination. Last year alone, this committee was responsible for bringing formal awards and recognition to approximately 150, or about 10 percent of the entire nursing staff.

Establishing the Committee

It is necessary to obtain the buy-in of the Nurse Executive who will support and promote the committee. Membership on the committee should be voluntary instead of assigned and include representation from different areas (e.g., medical/surgical, mental health, etc.) and from different levels (e.g., staff nurses, advance practice registered nurses, managers, etc.). Members’ tasks may include being a committee representative throughout the facility, identifying nominees for awards, writing actual nominations, and facilitating the award process (e.g., reminding other staff of award opportunities and due dates, duplicating and mailing award submissions, and obtaining approval letters from supervisors for the award submission if needed).

The mission, vision, and values should first be established with specific, doable goals determined. For example, the committee may want to start by focusing on internal award opportunities before looking to work on outside awards. This gives the committee the experience of working together, learning good nomination and interview techniques, and learning to perfect award writing skills.

The committee also needs to identify all available awards that exist within and outside the facility early on. This information needs to be shared not just among committee members, but also with the rest of nursing staff, and may be in the form of a monthly calendar on the facility’s website, monthly email to nursing staff, inclusion in the staff newsletter, or word of mouth during staff and committee/council meetings.

Information shared should include the committee’s existence, how they can help, awards/recognition opportunities that are available, and a mechanism for the staff to submit to the committee their ideas regarding potential nominees or other award opportunities. This empowers all nursing staff to be potential participants in the process.

Once potential nominees are identified for a specific award, agreement is made among the committee members as to who will assist or do the write-up for each nominee. The committee members carefully review the criteria and assure that the potential nominees fit all of it, which may include: length of nursing service, membership requirements to professional organizations, and degrees or roles. If the committee is not sure if a specific person is qualified for a nomination, a call should be made to the contact person for the award and the item in question clarified.

Although the members may wish to surprise the potential nominee, the best nominations are usually produced with input from the nominee. A detailed interview with the nominee should be organized to ensure that each component of the nomination requirements is addressed. A good nomination tells a story and paints a clear picture of outcomes/evidence resulting from the nominee’s actions or participation.

Celebrating Successes and Keeping the Ball Rolling

The committee should work with the facility’s public relations or nursing department to spread the good news about any nominations that have won. Photos could be taken of the winner and posted in the facility, on the facility’s website, newsletter, or on the winner’s unit to improve morale and motivate others to nominate themselves or others for awards. The winner can also be publicly recognized in staff meetings and other venues to show appreciation and recognition to the individual who has won.

The committee leader should also keep records including the award name, date, person(s) nominated, whether the person won, and the award/recognition received. This should be summarized quarterly and submitted to the Nurse Executive and management, to be shared with staff. This also serves as evidence of the committee’s work and accomplishments.

As the committee gains efficiency and energy, there should be a continued effort to expand the scope of possible awards and nominations. Use of the internet to search for awards, such as those in professional associations, organizations, and magazines, may identify other award opportunities previously not known. New members who are recruited to the committee may identify other potential nominees/staff nurses for future award opportunities.

Promoting Job Satisfaction and Nurse Retention

Facilities of magnet status recognize and reward their nurses, and are thus able to recruit and retain their staff (Jones-Schenk, 2001). The use of a Nursing Awards and Recognition Committee is a very effective tool to assist facilities in the promotion of job satisfaction and nurse retention. It provides an easily identified structure and resource within the facility for other nurses to use. It helps to promote camaraderie among nurses and shows others that nurses who work in the facility are appreciated. The committee’s work on behalf of the nominee provides recognition for their work and is a formal “Thank You!”


Keys to the Formation and Utilization of a Nursing Awards and Recognition Committee

• Support from the Nurse Executive.
• Volunteer membership from different areas and all levels.
• Clear mission, vision, values and realistic/measurable goals.
• Clear roles/tasks for each member.
• Good advertisement and communication of the committee throughout the facility.
• Commitment to the importance of the committee’s work in boosting morale and retaining nurses.


How to Write Award-winning Nominations

• Follow instructions noting acceptable format and method of submission (Internet, fax, or mail).
• Obtain information from the nominee directly, if possible.
• Review the scoring or judging methods.
• Address each criterion listed on the award, focusing on items most heavily weighted.
• Have proofreaders review content, grammar and spelling.
• Submit by the due date (confirm if due date is date of postmark or date received).

Crystal Barker MSN, RN-BC, PHN, CRRN is employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and serves as the Chairperson of the Nursing Awards & Recognition Committee.

Jenice Guzman, APRN, BC practices as a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Geriatric Research, Education & Clinical Center (GRECC), and is a doctoral student at the UCLA School of Nursing.

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