7 Workplace Tactics to Spark Nurse Engagement

Tactics to increase nurse engagement within the nursing field can be divided into two major workplace factors, Compassion Satisfaction and Mattering. As nurse leaders, responsibility for creating and sustaining a positive culture becomes an important and necessary task. By creating an environment where nurses feel Compassion Satisfaction and that they Matter, job satisfaction will increase. Nurses will want to come to work every day and desire to perform at a higher level.

To support these two basic nurse workplace factors, there are 7 workplace tactics that you can do today, at marginal cost, to spark higher nurse engagement. These workplace factors fall under larger engagement headings of Compassion Satisfaction and Mattering to Others.

Compassion Satisfaction
It is the pleasure one derives from being able to do work well. In the lens of nursing, this refers to the gratification that comes with helping patients. In some cases, nurses may experience Compassion Satisfaction when receiving official recognition. In others, it could come from an executive or colleague thanking the nurse for their hard work. A nurse leader should know what the individuals on the team need to feel recognized and appreciated. It’s up to nurse leaders to steer nurses toward Compassion atisfaction and away from Compassion Fatigue. Encouraging and providing Compassion Satisfaction can be done in any of the following four ways:

1. Encourage staff-bonding
Host events where nurses can socialize away from the work floor. Bonding activities and team-building exercises allow colleagues to learn together and develop positive opinions of each other. If a nurse feels negatively about a peer, it could increase the rate of compassion fatigue and discomfort in their position. Promoting staff bonding provides nurses with a network of peers who can encourage each other and keep engagement high.

2. Provide a forum for nurses to encourage each other
Provide a box or mailboxes somewhere in the workplace for nurses to put notes of encouragement when they see their peers exceeding expectations. This is a simple way to show your nurses that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.

3. Host annual events for staff recognition
Nominate nurses and give awards for nurse excellence within your facility. This will give nurses something to look forward to and keep them motivated to do their best work. Be creative with awards! Along with recognizing nurses for the every-day parts of their job, give out awards for best attitude, sense of humor, or other categories they could be nominated for by their colleagues.

4. Be Present
Try to spend time supervising nurses in person. Acknowledge and encourage those who are working hard and doing well. If you have limited contact with individual nurses, taking the time to offer face to-face encouragement can show nurses that their work is appreciated. If you’re unable to put in personal time with frontline staff, try giving your nurse managers/directors messages to relay to the rest of their unit on a weekly basis. It’s also very important that nurse managers/directors who do interact with frontline staff understand the importance of being present and maintaining relationships with the nurses in their unit. Set up a culture so that your leaders understand the importance of “being present.”

Mattering to Others
The second factor that affects nurse engagement is whether your nurses feel like what they do matters, or makes an impact. In a stressful healthcare environment, nurses can begin to feel like they’re running on a treadmill. No matter how long they run, they’re never getting anywhere. It’s important to make sure that your nurses are stopping to see the good they’re doing for patients and the hospital. If nurses only see what’s going wrong they may feel that their work doesn’t matter, causing them to be less motivated, less engaged, and more likely to develop compassion fatigue. Fortunately, there are simple ways to help your nurses see the good they’re doing and feel that their work matters.

5. Tell Them!
Set aside time in the morning once a day or once a week to remind your nurses of the good they’re doing. Most nurses have an internal desire to help people. Use specific examples to remind them that they’re doing just that.

6. Encourage Storytelling
Encourage your nurses to tell stories – to their peers, in online blogs, or anywhere else they can think of – about times they’ve helped people on the job. By telling positive stories, they’ll be more focused on the good experiences than the bad, causing them to feel positively towards their job. They will have increased intent to stay in their job and will have a strong desire to create more positive experiences through interaction with patients and peers.

7. Maintain a positive environment
This may vary from day to day, but as a nurse leader, you should do what you can to make sure the work environment is as positive and comfortable as possible. It can be as simple as making sure everyone is on good terms with their colleagues or setting an example of a positive attitude. Keeping the workplace positive makes it easier for nurses to be mindful of why they’re doing what they’re doing. If a nurse leader spends an entire shift complaining about how tired and stressed he/she is, the other nurses in the unit won’t be able to think about anything besides how tired and stressed they are. Everyone will be less engaged and less productive. On the other hand, if a nurse manager can remain positive and stay focused, it will allow the rest of the unit to do the same.

It’s the responsibility of nurse leaders to enable nurses to stay engaged, so that the entire facility can run efficiently. These seven tactics are the stepping stones to creating an environment of satisfaction and fulfillment. When nurses are engaged, it’s better for the culture of the organization, the outcomes of the organization, and the physical and mental health of nurses.

Article based on Kimberly Kerr presentation at AONE 2017 Annual Meeting, entitled “Workplace Factors Which Facilitate Nurse Engagement.” Kimberly Kerr is Director of Nursing and Professional Practice, Development, and Research at Cleveland Clinic Akron General.