So much of the patient experience rests in the hands of nurses. But so does quality, safety, and a myriad of other metrics. Nurses have a lot on their plates, so it’s no wonder many of them want to run screaming when leaders start “preaching” about the patient experience and improving HCAHPS scores. Although there are countless moments of truth during any healthcare encounter, many of the most important ones happen at the hands of the nursing staff.
As a nurse, I can tell you that the work can be demanding. But I can also tell you from first-hand experience that it is incredibly rewarding. I can’t think of another profession that allows you to connect with people in the way that nursing does. For me, nursing has always held a strong connection to purpose. It is closely aligned with my personal mission, vision, and values. With that said, I can also recall times when I needed a boost to stay connected and impassioned about nursing. For me, the thing that always draws me back to that deep sense of purpose is journaling and storytelling about the role nurses play. I’m not talking about the heroics as much as the moments in time when we connect with the patient either through comfort measures, generous listening, or a timely intervention. Those moments are rich with rewards, and, if not noted, are minimized as “all in a day’s work.”
Engaged nurses are key contributors to a positive patient experience. In my book, Reclaiming the Passion: Stories that Celebrate the Essence of Nursing, I share stories told by nurses about how they connect deeply with patients and their personal values through their daily work. They shared milestones and lessons learned–some humorous, some heartbreaking, but all deeply moving. But rather than stop with the heartwarming stories, I pushed the nurses that I interviewed to talk about what they learned and what they would want to share about these lessons with other nurses (One reader writes, ‘It’s Dr. Phil meets Chicken Soup for the Soul.’). I also created a journal to help nurses record their experiences and emotions so that they can look back and know how they made a difference in the lives of others. I feel it is so important for nurses to journal as a means of connecting to purpose. Sometimes, it is the act of writing that creates the AHA! moments.
Nurses need ways to rejuvenate and replenish in order to stay engaged and impassioned about their work. I encourage healthcare leaders to make a conscious effort to help their nurses stay engaged. Think about starting a storytelling group or asking nurses to write exemplars that can be shared internally. Regardless of the tactics you use, make sure that you include nursing engagement among your strategies for service excellence. The rewards are many!