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RN Recognition Has Lasting Results

In a profession where nurses focus on patients, it’s important for employers and outside organizations to turn that attention toward the nurses, as well. Through recognition programs, hospitals boost nurses’ self-esteem and practice confidence while also improving workplace morale for their colleagues.

“The common characteristic of hospitals that recruit and retain the best and the brightest nurses is having robust awards and recognition programs,” says Lauraine Szekely, RN, MBA, CNO and senior vice president for patient care services at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

In fact, high-caliber facilities, such as those with Magnet designation, have incorporated internal award giving into the culture of care.

“We’re in the caring business, and it’s so important to step back and recognize the challenges and the opportunities — you have to care for each other first,” says Catherine Galla, RN, MSN, corporate director of nursing operations for the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “[Award giving] is important in the sense of team building and in relationship building and in expressing appreciation for all of the hard work. It’s just that much more satisfying to be able to say you’re working on an award-winning team.”

Hundreds of North Shore-LIJ nurses are recognized every year with Center of Excellence Awards. Peer-nominated and manager-reviewed Center of Excellence Awards are given to nurses and ancillary staff members who consistently perform above the bar, such as taking the time to mentor staff or developing a new protocol or program, Galla says. Typically during Nurses Week each of the system’s sites designates a day to invite senior hospital leadership and the nurses’ families to a ceremony and lunch where award winners receive certificates and pins, Galla says.

“We want to make a big deal out of it,” she adds. “We find the staff really values the ceremonies and really taking the time to celebrate.”

That sort of attitude surrounds the Roy Zuckerberg Family Award for Nursing Service Excellence, another of North Shore-LIJ’s recognition programs. Established in 2005 by former board chairman Roy Zuckerberg to reward nurses who personify care and compassion, the award includes $1,000 and a plaque featured in the facility. This year, one nurse from each of the system’s 14 hospitals receive the prize, Galla says.

Liz O’Mara, RN, critical care nurse manager at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is cheered by colleagues as she walks up to the podium to receive an award.

Each year at Northern Westchester hundreds of nurses receive awards from a half-dozen categories. Among the accolades — developed by the nurse members of the facility’s shared-governance council — are Pay-it-Forward coffee cards, which can be gifted to nurses by former recipients anytime they’ve gone out of their way to help; and the Daisy Award, a surprise award given six times a year to peer-nominated nurses who’ve done something extraordinary in the life of a patient, says Kerry Flynn Barrett, RN, MS, vice president of human resources.

Barrett adds that so far this year the Daisy has been given to an oncology nurse who, after talking with a patient about her love of fall colors, purchased autumn-themed bedding; and a pediatric nurse who came to work dressed up as “Princess Jeanette” for her young, princess-loving ward.

“The nurse doesn’t know she’s nominated, and the day of [presentation] the nominating party comes to the floor where’s she’s working and surprises her with a banner and some symbolic things manufactured by the family and are meaningful around that caring philosophy,” Barrett explains.

Colleagues applaud Keva Galdamez, RN, of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, who stood up to be recognized in 2010.

Northern Westchester’s more prestigious Nurse of Distinction award, given to three nurses each year, carries with it a $1,500 cash prize, flowers, publicity pictures and an elaborate ceremony.

This year at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J., seven nurses — five inpatient acute, one geriatric and one outpatient/community health — received the Laraja Award/Myrtle Phillips Forsyth Award, which carries with it a $2,000 cash prize. Nominated by peers, reviewed by managers and then blinded, the submissions are given to the Nurse Practice Council for final selection.

“I love it when we have this ceremony and invite the family members,” says Bonnie Michaels, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, vice president and CNO at Mountainside. “It’s terrific because of how proud of them their families are.”

The emotional charge award winners typically receive is just the sort of response hospital executives hope for in the act of award giving, Michaels says.

“From a CEO’s perspective, if you have a positive work environment where people feel recognized and valued, we believe they transfer that pride to the patient and the patient’s family and the physician,” Michaels says.

Offering remuneration to nurses who aspire for extra certifications or seek higher education to ascend the clinical ladder is another incentive that contributes to a healthy work environment, sources say.

Many facilities, including Northern Westchester, not only pay more to nurses who attain supplementary certifications and advanced degrees, but also provide financial aid to help those individuals reach their professional and academic goals.

“One of our board members was so impressed by the work the nurses are doing that they donated $2 million to a professional endowment fund to support nursing education, and that [fund] spins off about $100,000 a year that can be accessed by staff to pay for exams and courses,” Szekely says. “And from fulfilling some of the goals, they are able to move up the ladder.”

A donation from Mountainside’s physicians supports advancing nursing practice, Michaels says.

“Physicians really value the nurses, who are their eyes and ears when they’re not here caring for patients, and they absolutely want to recognize nurses and support all of our endeavors to improve clinical knowledge and practice,” Michaels says. “I think physicians choose the hospital they take their patients to because that hospital provides excellent clinical support and services to their patient. If we can create a positive work environment where people enjoy coming and feel valued, it influences the physician’s and the patient’s choice.”

By | 2020-04-15T13:58:44-04:00 May 2nd, 2011|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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