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Physician and Healthcare Job Board

Giving Thanks to Healthcare Employees

Thanksgiving Reminder: Show Gratitude for Healthcare Workers
Iveta Aleksandrova Angelova/

Healthcare professionals may be among the most dedicated workers in any industry. Motivated to endure lengthy educational and certification requirements, they are often people with a purpose: to administer help, ease suffering and promote the greater good. The drive they bring to your facility translates across the institution, from strong teams to enhanced patient care and outcomes. As families across the nation celebrate Thanksgiving in their homes, healthcare facilities would do well to celebrate all they have to be thankful for in their employees.

Gratitude for employees and the work they do is basic to engagement and retention. People appreciate being appreciated: they may not need (or want) a ticker tape parade every time they perform a task correctly, but they do want (and need) recognition and gratitude for the work they perform overall. Employees who don’t feel their work is being appreciated at one facility may look to find appreciation at another.

In healthcare, translating gratitude for employee efforts can have a larger effect beyond pleasing individual employees. The thanks you give to one employee can motivate others to excel. The appreciation you give to staff members is likely to boost their engagement in the work they’re performing today, and motivate them to reach even higher in the future. Employee morale is also enhanced: when people see efforts are valued and recognized, they strive to achieve. All these benefit patient outcomes, as well, further boosting morale and engagement: the gratitude institutions provide comes full circle.

Giving thanks

Most healthcare providers are involved with recognition programming at some level. It can be as basic as points earned/redeemed for milestones or other achievements. It can be national award programs for nurses and physicians. But these can either be anonymous or rare. Institutions who want to boost engagement and retention should look for and create regular opportunities to recognize and thank employees.

Start with the magic words

Your mother taught you the magic words – please and thank you. While we all use them by rote, remember their larger meaning. Taking the time to stop what you’re doing and thank someone, particularly a direct report, even for the smallest thing has great meaning: they translate you’re noticing the work as well as appreciating it.

Recognition should go beyond the “employee of the month” routine. It should highlight specific behaviors and actions that embody the mission and vision of your institution that should rightfully be recognized and celebrated.

Celebrate achievement

In the busy, 24 hour a day world of healthcare, stopping to celebrate every achievement may be challenging, but not impossible. Don’t have time for a party with cake every week?  No worries – celebrations can be as simple as card sent to say thank you, a balloon bouquet that offers a shout-out, even a button a staff member can wear all day that highlights them as a superstar. A profile of their specific achievement or overall excellence on your career or social media page costs nothing but reaps great rewards when recognizing staff: it’s something they can share with friends, family and their social media network – a boost for your brand, as well. Managers should be encouraged to be creative in finding ways they can boost morale in their departments with simple acts of gratitude.

Create achievements to celebrate

Facility-wide awards are even more coveted and prestigious and should be part of your overall engagement and retention plan. Consider pulling together recognition teams from all disciplines of your facility, physicians, nursing, admins, and service providers – everyone wants to be appreciated. Task these teams with creating achievement s and/or milestones for their areas: food service workers who go the extra mile for employees or patients; cleaning staff that are helpful and dedicated; nurses who go above and beyond. The possibilities are endless. Provide the team with a budget to create and distribute awards that are meaningful for every recipient, and make sure they are aware you’ll boast about achievements online, as well!

You may consider awards given at employee events or randomly issued kudos when an employee goes above and beyond: a best practice, depending on the size of your facility, may be both.

Don’t assume, ask

Survey employees on areas they feel should be acknowledged and create recognition programming or awards around these. Giving staff a voice in what they value and what achievements they believe should be recognized may be an eye-opener for many facilities. What you think is important may be very different than their own views.


Giving thanks to healthcare employees should be as ingrained as saying thank you by rote. Your staff is invaluable: they can make or break your facility. On Thanksgiving, and all year long, institutions should work proactively to show gratitude for the people who make everything possible.

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About Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years. Connect with Riia on Twitter at @RiiaOD.

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