In a post-pandemic world, the million-dollar question revolves around how to ensure the well-being, emotional health, and full engagement of nurses. Recent Gallup data reveals that 80% of employees claim to be fully engaged after receiving meaningful feedback in the past week. Unfortunately, among the nearly 15,000 employees who participated in the study, only 16% described their last conversation with their manager as extremely meaningful.
So, why is meaningful feedback in nursing so crucial?
Meaningful feedback comes into play when managers prioritize recognition, collaboration, goals, priorities, and strengths. The best managers actively listen to their team members, addressing any concerns or issues they may have. Over the years, I’ve learned that providing meaningful recognition can be achieved by:
- Regularly providing immediate and specific feedback for nursing staff. According to an article by Gallup, just 15 minutes per week can suffice for a meaningful conversation, especially when it involves recognizing or appreciating recent achievements. While it may seem challenging for nurse managers to find time for this with every employee, fostering a culture of open communication and mutual feedback can be a solution. It’s vital to recognize that managers play a pivotal role in establishing and nurturing a culture of collaboration.
- A manager’s superpower lies in providing feedback that is kind, direct, and honest. Managers should effectively communicate work goals, priorities, and expectations. Novice managers sometimes shy away from providing feedback, fearing it may affect employee motivation or engagement. Striking a balance between results and relationships is key; being too direct can come across as harsh, while being overly kind may be unclear. Always remember that clear, honest, and caring feedback is a valuable gift to an employee.
- Emphasizing strengths is crucial for maximizing the potential of every team member. This involves recognizing and sharing how their abilities can be better applied. When providing positive feedback for nursing staff, I aim to identify and highlight patterns. For example, I might say, “I’ve noticed that when you do this, you achieve excellent results.” On the other hand, when delivering constructive feedback, instead of focusing on what isn’t being done, I opt for a more reassuring approach, such as, “I believe you would be more effective if you tried this.” Changing ineffective behavior can be challenging for most people. Therefore, coaching individuals on what to do, rather than what not to do, exemplifies meaningful feedback that can have a more profound impact.
Given that meaningful feedback is a cornerstone of nurse engagement, the question arises: How can we simplify this process, especially considering the heavy workload that managers already carry? We can assist managers in establishing a practice that ensures they consistently engage in meaningful conversations, which are vital for enhancing employee engagement. This can be achieved by:
- Coaching managers on the skills needed to provide meaningful feedback for nursing staff. This involves clarifying the goals of each team member, engaging in ongoing conversations, and establishing accountability.
- Teaching managers evidence-based strategies that support maximizing their team’s capabilities. This approach supports professional development, data-driven decision-making, patient safety, cost savings, and adaptation to industry changes, ensuring high-quality care and efficient care delivery.
- Creating a structure for peer learning. Creating and establishing a structured framework, where nurses can share insights, challenges, ideas, and successes with their peers, promotes collaboration, knowledge sharing, and continuous improvement among nurses, ultimately improving both the patient and clinician experience.
Setting nurse managers up for success in providing meaningful feedback both builds their confidence and establishes them as a mentor, preceptor, and leader to guide the next generation of nurses. Meaningful feedback is a powerful tool, but it’s often in short supply.
To foster a culture of meaningful feedback and enhance nurse engagement, it’s imperative to coach managers in the necessary skills, impart evidence-based strategies for team optimization, and create a structured environment for peer learning.
Ultimately, this is a collective effort, and as we move forward, it’s crucial to remember that the well-being of our healthcare providers and the quality of care they deliver are intertwined. Through the practice of meaningful feedback and the cultivation of a culture of continuous improvement, we pave the way for a brighter and healthier future in nursing.
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Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a registered nurse and former CEO of the American Nurses Association. Currently, she serves as the senior advisor for Practicing Excellence’s Nursing Experience Project (NEP), an app-based skill-building solution created by nurses, for nurses.