How the CNO Drives Nurse Engagement

What is employee engagement? Gallup defines it as the level of commitment, passion and loyalty a worker has towards their work and their organization. CNOs can take action to drive nurse engagement; in fact Magnet hospitals are even graded on engagement metrics like leadership access/responsiveness and RN to RN teamwork and collaboration.

To help a nurse executive to be “visible” and lead organizations with dedicated nurses, here are a few tactics a CNO can use to drive nurse engagement:

Be Intentional About Nurse Recognition
One employment stat by Gallup shows that employees who receive senior-level recognition 3x or more in a quarter are twice as likely to stay with an organization. So recognize good work! Here are a few examples:
-Publish good works on the health system intranet, or even start a company/unit newsletter.
-Have contests tied to recognition received. Let the prize be “Be CNO for a Day!” Your nurses may even appreciate how hard it is to run a hospital.
-Celebrate your nurses’ certifications. Show that professional growth is noticed, valued, and contributes to long-term hospital success.

Enforce Patient Stories, Periods of Caring
Remind your nurses why they became a nurse, and give permission to spend time with patients, and collect stories from care and patient attention given. Let nurses know it is important to hold onto these moments and share if possible. A few examples:
-Redesign/Rethink the Care Delivery Model. In doing this, work in solutions to give nurses time at the bedside. Some nurse leaders adopt Swanson’s Caring Theory, which calls for nurses to take 5-minutes to get to know their patients. Ask nurses to share these stories from moments of caring.
-Give positive reinforcement to nurses for telling stories of caring. One CNO from Baystate Medical Center (MA) is so serious about enforcing stories of caring, that she passes out coffee shop gift cards at random intervals if a nurse can quickly tell her a unique patient story and how care delivered impacted the patient and nurse. This reinforces the importance of periods of caring, and shows nurses it is OK to spend a few moments just talking with patients and learning about them.

Increase Nurse Autonomy, and get Nurse Feedback
Think about a more collaborative shared governance model, and make sure your leaders buy-in. Shared governance will not work without the backing of managers and directors. Plus use a few of these tactics to show nurses you trust their judgment and ideas:
-Create nurse councils to address issues which leadership may not be noticing. For example, start a “night shift council” that meets monthly. Issues the night staff nurses face may be much different from other nurses. Night shift nurses may not deal with staffing issues for instance, they may have problems arising from Nutrition or Environmental Services which can more easily be fixed with attention and planning. And with a council, nurses will see that their input is being listened to.
-Increase the number and availability of nurse driven protocols.
-Use surveys to learn about nurse frustration points which may otherwise go unnoticed. You may not like what you hear, but you may also find out that untrue organization rumors are driving negative perceptions, giving you an opportunity to dispel rumors or false gossip. CNOs have enough on their plate without having to deal with issues that are imagined or perceived. And with surveys, don’t hand them out during busy periods and ask for them back in 5-minutes. Give your nurses a quiet moment to reflect off-the-floor, to help make answers meaningful.

Be Visible
Show your nurses that you are a part of the team and understand their issues:
-Consider doing a bi-weekly open coffee time, where nurses can come talk to you about issues they are facing.
-Be the first cheerleader when recognitions, certifications, or professional growth are achieved. Others will follow your lead and create a ripple effect.
-Since a CNO can’t be everywhere and cannot possibly “coach” every associate, assign a senior nurse resource for less experienced nurses. This will allow for discussions and mentoring without nurses feeling fear of retribution for speaking out or voicing concerns.

Organize a few “big deal” events
Plan fun outings or events to show nurse appreciation. Let nurses know that the organization doesn’t work without them! Feel free to tie “big deal” events to stories/periods of caring (previously mentioned):
-Don’t over think it here, have a “decorate an Easter basket contest,” a Yoga retreat, organize a dance class, go to a baseball game. Celebrate and recognize caring behavior as a group.
-Volunteer as an organization or get involved in the community somehow.
-Establish a few self-care practices or resources internally to help nurses build resiliency and work-life balance. Even if they do not participate it will show you value well-being.

Sources:
-AONE 2019 session, “Let’s Get Visible, and Drive Nurse Engagement;” Christine Klucznik, Baystate Medical Center
-“Tips from CNOs on Increasing Nurse Engagement in 2018;” Avant Health, Shari Costantini

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