In a bustling hospital, Ellen, a nurse practitioner, has been working extra shifts for the past month due to a staff shortage, and she’s feeling the strain both physically and emotionally. Despite the exhaustion, she continues to provide exemplary care to her patients, always with a warm smile and a reassuring word. One morning, her supervisor calls her in for an unannounced team meeting. There, Ellen is presented with a Superstar Nurse trophy, awarded to a deserving nurse based on recent patient reviews. Her supervisor starts reading out some of the glowing reviews and ratings that patients have left and lets Ellen know her name will be featured on the hospital’s website and social media channels. Ellen’s job is as challenging as ever, but she feels energized and appreciated.
Ellen’s experience is not unusual. Hospitals everywhere are figuring out that patient feedback-based recognition programs are an effective way to boost morale and improve performance at a time when hospital staff need recognition more than ever. For example, the Johns Hopkins Hospital annual Edward A. Halle Prize for Excellence in Patient Service honors an employee who exemplifies extraordinary human compassion and outstanding patient service based on patient feedback. The University of Iowa’s annual Patient Satisfaction and Service Excellence Award is based on patient feedback, and Houston Healthcare celebrates staff contributions to patient satisfaction through its Patient Experience Committee, which has a monthly recognition event where the management team acknowledges staff efforts.
These examples of employee recognition all have in common the additional credibility that comes with an honor based on direct patient feedback. And healthcare providers have good reason to uplift employees as a way to demonstrate gratitude and create positive vibes. Healthcare burnout has become so serious that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a formal initiative to tackle the problem, as nurses, physicians, and administrative personnel continue to endure the stress of a staffing shortage and the lingering stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Howard, MD, director of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers faced challenging working conditions that lead to burnout. This includes long work hours, risk for hazardous exposures, stressful work, and high administrative burdens. Hospital leaders need support to implement organizational changes. Practical adjustments can reduce burnout and strengthen professional wellbeing within their hospitals.”
Indeed, Reputation’s own research into employee sentiment (shared in our 2022 Healthcare Reputation Report) shows that sentiment for healthcare as a whole is lower than other industries. For nurses, compensation is a big concern, but so is feeling appreciated by management. This is where employee appreciation programs can help.
How Patient Feedback Can Power Employee Appreciation
Employee appreciation needs to be a year-round effort, and deserving employees should be praised publicly and awarded for these programs to really matter. Factoring patient feedback (such as ratings and reviews) into these efforts is especially valuable because patient feedback provides a valuable lens; it can be tracked and scored in real-time; and can provide powerful testimonial evidence of exceptional performance. But why wait for an annual award to honor employees? Hospitals can do a lot more all year round, for example:
- Share positive reviews with staff directly. When a patient takes the time to leave a positive review of a staff member, share it with that staff member and their team. This shows that their hard work and dedication are appreciated, and it can boost their morale.
- Celebrate staff achievements — often. When staff members consistently receive positive reviews, celebrate their achievements, as noted here. This could be done through a public recognition program, a staff newsletter, or a simple thank-you note from the hospital manager during a team meeting. The key is to rely on the immediacy of patient feedback to cite great performance as it happens rather than waiting for an annual employee recognition (you should do both!).
- Praise employees publicly. A “Wall of Fame” approach that highlights employees with positive patient reviews can be a great way to honor employees both offline (e.g., on the wall of the front lobby) and online (on a website and social media). This gave patients a chance to recognize staff for their good work, and it also gave staff members a chance to see how much their work was appreciated.
- Include senior management in the fun. Involve the highest levels of authority in your hospital to praise employees when they are honored. It might not be possible for them to do so all the time, but senior members should comment, for example, on your hospital’s social media posts that praise employees, showing that they are listening and appreciative.
- Use reviews to identify areas for improvement. Patient reviews can also be used to identify areas where staff training or support is needed. For example, if multiple patients mention that staff members are not communicating effectively, the hospital could provide additional training on communication skills. After all, helping employees in constructive ways shows that you care.
- Use reviews to develop staff goals. Patient reviews can also be used to help staff members develop goals for their professional development. For example, if a staff member receives a review that praises their bedside manner, they could set a goal to continue developing their patient communication skills.
- Dial feedback into your entire operations. If you are not doing so already, make sure you tap into patient feedback to monitor and improve all aspects of operations beyond staff performance. Even glowing reviews of staff might reveal some areas for operational improvement. For instance, a staff member might be praised for going out of their way to help a patient navigate their way back to their car in the patient lot. Well, praise that staff member, and in addition, perhaps your hospital needs to also re-evaluate its signage or other potential stumbling block to patients navigating the building and the lot.
- Act on negative feedback. Culling patient reviews will inevitably result in finding some negative feedback. Deal with that separately through a well-managed review response program, and of course, constructively address with staff members who need to know about the issue.
Tips for Relying on Reviews for an Employee Appreciation Program
Here are some tips for doing all of this well:
- Pull from many resources. To get a complete perspective on someone’s performance, pull feedback from public ratings/reviews, surveys, emails, and anywhere else patient feedback can be collected. Doing this will make sure your own recognition program relies on both real-time, up-to-date input and more substantive feedback that more often happens when someone writes an email. In addition, a muti-source approach balances quantitative and qualitative feedback. You may need a platform to manage these various strands of feedback, especially from public sources that are more difficult to monitor and measure. (Reputation can help you with that.)
- Use feedback as part of a voice-of-the-employee (VoC) program. VoC programs are designed to allow staff to weigh in with their own issues, concerns, and values. Administrators should complement what they hear from patients with what they hear from employees, too, including their opinions of the collective employee experience. How does patient feedback square with the employee experience? Could your superstars who receive consistently positive patient feedback be rewarded also for sharing their best practices with their peers on staff?
- Be mindful of HIPAA compliance. When sharing positive patient feedback that honors employees, carefully vet the content so that you don’t run afoul of HIPAA requirements. Sharing patient names for instance is a no-no.
Benefits of a Employee Appreciation Program
Managing an employee feedback program can and should certainly boost morale and improve employee retention. What does that stronger morale and improved retention lead to? Two specific outcomes in particular:
- Stronger performance. When employees feel appreciated, they respond. When employees feel empowered and happier, inevitably business performance improves. You should see outcomes such as higher CAHPS scores and a higher Reputation Score.
- Lower costs. The average cost of turnover for a staff registered nurse is $52,350. This is up from the average cost of turnover for a registered nurse in 2021, which was $46,100. Each percent change in registered nurse turnover will cost or save the average hospital $380,600 per year. The total cost of replacing a physician and getting them up to speed is $500,000 to $1 million.
By actively engaging with patient reviews and using them as a tool for improvement, hospitals can create a more positive work environment which can contribute to higher staff morale and better retention rates. The Reputation healthcare team can help you with a proactive review management program.