Go above and beyond to recognize your nurses

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Working as a nurse can be gratifying, but a little encouragement, appreciation, and recognition can go a long way in healthcare facilities. St. Cloud Hospital—which has chosen to do this with an award program for more than 15 years—is seeing the positive effects throughout the facility.

"Staff have always felt that it is a significant honor to be recognized [for an award]," says Jeanine Nistler, director of communications for CentraCare Health System, parent organization of St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, MN. "I think they see it as great validation of what they do—and that what they are doing is something pretty special."

In a facility staffed with about 3,500 people, recipients of the Care Above All Award need to stand out among the crowd. Previously known as The Circle of Excellence Award, it is granted only to staff fulfilling specific criterion that is reviewed by the facility's employee recognition committee, such as mentoring employees, serving as a role model, maintaining a professional appearance, and demonstrating a strong commitment to their co-workers and productivity.

Nistler says recipients of the Care Above All Award must also exemplify the facility's core values in their daily work such as:

  • Collaboration
  • Hospitality
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Service
  • Trusteeship

And the nominees are...

Approximately once a month, St. Cloud's employee recognition council chooses one staff member for the award after reviewing submitted nomination forms. "It is not just for nurses, but because nursing is the largest employee group that we have, statistically the chances of nurses winning are much higher," says Nistler.
As determined by the council, staff eligible for nomination have to work for St. Cloud for at least one year and cannot receive the award more than once. Nominations have to come from two people who have worked directly with the nominee for more than one year. These two people are required to fill out a nomination form which asks them to provide an attribute of this employee, exemplifying the principles, goals, and objectives of their work area.

According to Nistler, the reviewing process for these nominations is taken very seriously by the council. "They won't give the award to someone if the nomination form and follow-up that the committee does doesn't substantiate that these are exceptional employees."

Those on the council are also not eligible to be nominated and cannot nominate another staff member.

Going above to celebrate staff

Because the facility takes the award so seriously, St. Cloud honors Care Above All recipients a number of ways including:

  • Granting award winners with plaques
  • Publishing a picture of the recipient and a news brief discussing the award and what nominators had to say about them in the facility's employee newsletter
  • Featuring a picture of the recipient and a summary on the facility's internal Web site
  • Displaying a framed picture of recipients holding their award near the main dining room
  • Sending a media release about the award recipient to a local newspaper that they publish in their business section
  • Holding an annual recognition banquet convening all winners from the past year and several other members of the facility

Roll out the red carpet at your facility

For facilities interested in implementing an award program for their staff, Nistler highly recommends establishing a group or committee that would have overall responsibility for awards and manage the award program.

"I think it has a lot more meaning if [the award] comes from peers, rather than something that is housed under the administrative wing," says Nistler. "The committee can be made up of a combination of frontline staff and managers, but you want a representation from across the organization."

Nistler also emphasizes that these committees develop solid criteria for the award and follow-up with nominees: "You need to check with their supervisor to make sure they are not on a performance improvement plan or have just given their resignation, as this could be embarrassing and diminish the value of the award."