I got this card in my mailbox. Attached to it were a bag of candied nuts that I'm highly allergic to (but which my coworkers loved) and a bag of chocolate (which I demolished in no time flat). Inside the card was a list of stuff I did well that made a difference to a patient and her family. It's not my first happygram, and I'll tape it inside my Moleskine with the others, but they're rare enough that I can remember all of mine pretty clearly. I'm not talking about only patient compliments---I mean it's rare enough for me to hear AT ALL that I'm doing a good job that I write it down and remember it. Let us pause and reflect. There's a problem here. I know I'm not unique. It is a known and much-lamented feature of hospital psychology that nurses hear, day in and day out, what we're doing wrong, how we can be written up or fired, how we can lose our licenses, and how many patients have complained about us. (And patient complaints, for nonmedical folks...are NOT necessarily grounded in reality at all.) This has a devastating effect on morale. Why anyone even studies the causes of burnout among nurses is beyond me. We work crazy hard, catch crap from above and below, work without eating or peeing, and then have our mistakes listed for us in excruciating detail and have increasing amounts of meticulous charting that, if completed incorrectly, result in nonreimbursement (few things incur greater wrath than nonreimbursement). Who wouldn't burn out? Workplace morale would improve, I'm convinced, a zillionfold if we could just balance out this negativity a little bit.
I put my money where my mouth is on this point and e-mail my bosses regularly when I think someone has done a good job. Why? Because I want to give someone the opportunity to feel that little zing of happiness when they hear about it during their yearly review. (They'd BETTER hear about it at some point.) I just took the time a few nights ago to take aside a new nurse and tell her I thought she was doing a great job, and she got tearful. I'm pretty sure I know why; I'm pretty sure it's one of the first compliments she's gotten.
Time is short. Budgets are short. And I know administration doesn't have time to go around giving everyone external validation all the time. However, it's a basic law of psychology that sticks require carrots for balance, and it doesn't have to start with administration. I challenge my fellow nurses to an experiment: just once a week, WRITE DOWN something someone did really well and give a copy to your boss. We did this at my old job on readily available sticky pads and it worked well. (Now we can, but we have to do it online, it's complicated, and I don't even know where the form is, so it's a nonstarter.)
Morale sucks everywhere, from what I hear, and administration isn't going to fix it for us. We're nurses. We can do this.