Bringing Employee Recognition into the Healthcare Workforce

Updated on October 9, 2022
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Healthcare organizations, like all companies, benefit when employees have high morale because it will lead to increased engagement, productivity, and improved patient care. So how do you get there? By making employee recognition programs part of the culture and they become one of the most effective ways to support a high-performing culture and workplace of choice.

Success in workforce recognition has been demonstrated at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where results of satisfaction surveys of faculty and staff indicated they want to know how their contributions impact the overall advancement of the organization.

Knowing how important this was to the staff – OSUWMC C-level execs began recognizing employees who make these contributions and encourage others to incorporate these best practices into their workday. Identifying areas such as patient satisfaction, and patient safety, highlighting accomplishments like the launch of a new system, and awards for excellence are examples of ways to develop recognition tools in a healthcare environment. 

A key healthcare-centered program at OSUWMC is recognizing areas of the medical center that reach Patient Satisfaction goals of scoring in the top 10% in the nation quarterly and annually. The Senior Administrative team bearing balloons, letters, and their plaque visited each area to thank faculty and staff. While the rewards and giveaways add a festive element to the executive walk-around – they are not necessary as many staff have reported that the in-person acknowledgements and time to talk with leaders was the most meaningful and memorable part of the recognition. 

And, while many will consider employee recognition programs redundant in healthcare because of the existing national “named” days, weeks or months like Nurse’s Week, Doctor’s Day, Social Work, OT/PT, Labs, Pharmacy, etc – it isn’t the same. Here’s why. By taking the time and effort to recognize one another (manager to employee and peer to peer), everyone will feel the lift and renewed pride taking one more step toward building and advancing their department, floor, research, patient care reinforcing your reputation as a national or community leader in healthcare. 

But to have a successful employee recognition program – supervisors, managers, and anyone with direct reports need to be trained. Yes, it takes skill to communicate thanks for a job well done, and while we may be a professional expert – showing appreciation that is meaningful and will last take training.  In 2016, Recognition Professionals International, the only professional association solely focused on recognition in the workplace, created more educational tools for their 2016 RPI Summit. Not only is the networking and idea exchange the most abundant on innovative best practices but RPI sought and received accreditation from IACET for the conference content from speakers to panels to break-out sessions allowing attendees to earn CEUs for the programs they attend.  RPI also has approved online and on-site courses for healthcare admin professionals to earn their certification as recognition professionals (CRP).

Becoming a culture of recognition at your healthcare company will help support your mission, vision, and values.  Recognition needs to be consistent, understood, and meaningful.  In healthcare, it is easy to use existing procedures and goals as your guide to create recognition tools and events – but serious recognition programs must be constantly evolving with new, relevant ideas and direction while keeping managers trained on what it means to show appreciation.  Good luck!

Amy Hurley LSW, CRP is the program director of faculty and staff recognition at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and member of the Board of Directors for Recognition Professionals International which holds their Annual Summit in Las Vegas in January 2016. For more info visit: