How Nurse Leaders can boost morale

rising-healthcare-costsWhile sitting in a recent interview, I was asked how I would boost morale. My answer was simple, though sometimes overlooked by nurse leaders.

Say “thank you.”

So often we forget to thank each other for the extraordinary work we do on a daily basis. Some days are extremely hard and thankless which leads to low morale in the work place. Hearing something as simple as “thank you for all the hard work you have done today” brings a sense of validation that you are doing the best job possible and that it is recognized by others.

Morale boosting with leader rounding

I know many people will say the obvious answer to boost morale is to lower patient ratios and hire more staff. That sounds great, but it’s not always an option. It’s funny to think about this narrow, but familiar thinking, while reading, “The nurse leader handbook: the art and science of nursing leadership”, a highly regarded book that is written to develop and increase the effectiveness of nurse leaders.

Just three chapters in and it speaks about recognition and leader rounding as ways to improve staff satisfaction. Of course, the mind wanders to the cynical side of staff rounding and thinks of it as a way to check off how well your staff is rounding on patients.

However, it is more. It is actually taking time to speak with staff and ask important questions.

  • Are things working well on the unit?
  • Does someone deserve to be recognized?
  • Are there any systems that need to be improved?
  • Does the staff have the tools and information needed?
  • Is there any way the leader can help them at the present time?

It is noticeable that this form of leader rounding is not always performed. If promoted more often, it would lead to increased staff satisfaction.

It seems clear that if leaders spent more time speaking to staff members about their day and the issues they see on the floor, they would build trust and a sense of belonging with staff, which reduces turnover and increases morale.

The vibe on duty

When walking into work, you can feel out your day based on the leader on duty and it can instantly set a negative tone. It’s important that nurse leaders make an effort to be as positive as possible and have an open door relationship with staff. It is invaluable that nurses feel comfortable approaching the nurse leader. They need to be welcoming and need to invoke a sense of non-punitive attitude.

Too often, nurses have a fear of going to leaders with problems or questions because they don’t want to appear inadequate. A great way to remove this fear is by always taking time to listen to staff and answer questions in ways that are not demeaning or degrading.

Leadership sets the tone

Overall, leadership sets the tone for employee morale. It’s key to know the difference between being an effective leader and not just a manager. I really appreciate feeling like I am an asset to an employer rather than feeling replaceable. Yes, I know we are all technically replaceable, but we can’t feel that way.

Imagine if you were repeatedly told that you are mediocre and that there is nothing special about you. After hearing this enough, you would start to feel unfulfilled and look elsewhere for a job. I am not saying we need to be showered with praise every day (although, it would be lovely). Rather, we should at least be treated in a respectful manner and thanked for all the effort we have put into our time at work.

When leaders frequently highlight what nurses are doing wrong and constantly focus on the negative, the staff loses hope and morale drops. Some of what would appear like the worst areas to work in can have the highest employee satisfaction scores. Simply, put, it’s about the leadership. Appreciation and positive reinforcement can do wonders on any unit.


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