Career advice

Give praise when it’s due, don’t wait for the farewell party

Nurses know they have a duty to raise concerns, but it's also good practice to give positive feedback and show colleagues your appreciation.

Nurses know they have a duty to raise concerns, but it's also good practice to give positive feedback and show colleagues your appreciation

My partner recently changed jobs. She found leaving the unit where she had nursed for many years an emotional experience. Amid the excitement of new beginnings lay sadness because of what she was leaving behind.

Showing appreciation can improve your own sense of well-being. Picture: iStock

Yet as her last shift approached she was showered with praise and goodwill from colleagues and patients, so when she finally said goodbye there was a sense that she had made a difference.
Much as I was delighted that she departed on such a positive note, it led me to wonder how we can all show appreciation on a day-to-day basis instead of waiting for the farewell party.

Feeling valued

All clinical environments should have robust systems in place to report incidents and ‘near misses’, but what happens when things go well? Only focusing on mistakes or what isn’t working is exhausting and can contribute to low morale in the ward team.
Shifting the focus and creating a balance between learning from errors and acknowledging success – on whatever scale – can help to increase motivation and instil a sense of value. Managers give formal feedback, but they are not the only people responsible for team dynamics.
Try to think of ways in which you can help colleagues to feel appreciated. Sometimes it is the simple things that make a difference, such as saying thank you when someone helps you or acknowledging when a patient looks really settled after another nurse has cared for them.
Receiving praise can make you feel good and help increase your self-esteem, both at and outside of work. Likewise, showing appreciation and expressing gratitude can have a positive impact on your own sense of well-being.

Be authentic

You have a professional duty to always act with honesty and integrity, and this includes giving praise or feedback to colleagues. Here are some simple tips to express your appreciation on the ward:

  • Be genuine: as a child, when I had been naughty and was asked to apologise my mother used to tell me to say it like I meant it. Perhaps I was too young to understand this at the time, but I can now spot insincere comments a mile off. So make sure you offer genuine praise, and avoid the trap of saying something simply to appear ‘nice'.
  • Keep it simple: not everyone is good at accepting compliments, so don’t make too big a deal of it. Avoid being overly sentimental as this might embarrass some people or appear fake.
  • Don’t be sarcastic: even if you regularly share banter with your colleagues it’s wise to leave sarcasm behind when you are saying thank you or complimenting another nurse.
  • Watch your incentive: reflect on your reasons for showing your appreciation – offering unconditional praise means that you don’t expect anything in return.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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