Recognition Programs: Nursing Excellence

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC / April 2018


We all know those nurses that go above and beyond the call of duty to provide excellent care for their patients. In addition to providing excellent patient care, they are also team players, consistently keeping a monitoring eye on their co-workers and ready to lend a helping hand as needed.

That colleague asks if you need help, or if there is anything they can do for you – and they wait. They sincerely and compassionately wait for your answer because they really want to find out what they can do to be of service to you.

On the contrary, there is that person that asks if they can help, and yet, never break their stride to wait for the answer. Instead they just keep walking down the hall. My personal favorite is the colleague that sits in the not-too-far distance watching you run around like a crazy person and never offering to help. They act as is they have no idea what’s going on around them, not acknowledging the unit is on its fifth admission. That is the co-worker that I am not referring to in this blog!

The nursing rock star

There is the type of clinician often referred to as a “rock star,” having the experience and skill to anticipate the unit needs and your needs. She or he already knows that you could use some help, they show up with energy, enthusiasm, positive attitude, and “yes”! They are willing to use their few extra minutes to help you with what turns out to be a very busy shift.

They show up with this level of passion and commitment every day (or every shift they work).

It seems they regularly show up prepared to deal with the most difficult and complex situations. If you are taking care of the sickest patient on your unit, or the only stable patient on your assignment is starting to deteriorate, staffing is tight, unit is on its fifth admission, discharges, and there is no additional staff available, then THAT is the colleague you want in your corner.

You look around to see that person is present – and you know it is going to be an okay day and think, “We will get through it.”

A champion

Perhaps you are not working in an acute care setting or in a hospital. Maybe you are working in outpatient, private practice, or clinical research. We can all relate to an associate that is a “champion” on our unit, team or department; that amazing person that seems to have super human skills, is calm, and has speed and resilience. It is that nurse that works scheduled shifts, and participates in unit councils and hospital committees. They are motivated to serve beyond the organization, are active with national associations, and community-based initiatives.

We all know them, worked side-by-side with them, and hopefully have been inspired to be one of these amazing clinicians. The ever-ready nurse, physician, or therapist that has the compassion, energy, and capacity to show up for work, “ready to rise-up to the challenge” kind of team member. They are often referred to as having “professional intuition” or having “Spidey senses.”

These are the champions among us!

Value and recognition

There is a growing amount of evidence that supports an organization valuing employee’s work through recognition and improving employee engagement.2  Recognizing exceptional clinicians lets them know that their commitment to quality work is valued and appreciated by the organization and others. This holds true for recognition programs outside the immediate organization.

Most organizations have a nursing recognition program. This is a great opportunity to recognize your colleagues and peers, letting them know how much their dedication to doing an excellent job does not go without notice. Positivity generates more positivity, improves morale, and inspires the person that is recognized to do more, as well as other members on the team.

If your workplace does not have a recognition program, consider going outside of your organization.  That would be a wonderful, heart-felt gift of appreciation for a dedicated colleague(s) – a gift of acknowledgement.

Several years ago, March of Dimes introduced an awards program to honor extraordinary nurses that demonstrate excellence by going above and beyond to deliver compassionate care.3 The program allows for nurses to be nominated in 18 categories by their colleagues, supervisors, or families they have served. The March of Dimes will be hosting awards ceremonies in 12 different states. The location and submission criteria is located on their website. It’s is a great opportunity to honor extraordinary nurses in your area.

Contests for excellence

Last summer, Prevention magazine and The Doctors (television program) partnered together to recognize nurses for their compassion, commitment, and expert care.

The recognition was in the form of a contest titled “America’s Most Amazing Nurse Contest.”  Prevention published brief career summaries on the five finalists in the contest, giving voice to the contestants. The format allowed for each of them to share their stories in their own words. Each one spoke about their passion to provide quality care for patients, and extend themselves to do even more, including raise money, volunteer, and/or lead innovative programs.  I found the article to be inspiring and an honest reflection of many nurses that I know personally. I am excited for the winner of the contest; however, I do believe all that read the article or watched the program were motivated and encouraged by their commitment to improving care for their patients.

The results are conclusive: when clinicians receive recognition for their efforts, job satisfaction and engagement are improved. We all want to be recognized when we consistently perform with a high-level of commitment and dedication to achieve established goals. Recognition improves our self-esteem, professional satisfaction, and motivation to continue aspiring for excellence.

The above highlights only a few ways to recognize those champions among us. What does recognition mean to you? Tell us in the comments below!



  1. Cicero, K. Nurses we love. 2017, 5;43-53
  2. Lowe, G. How employee engagement matters for hospital performance. Healthcare Quarterly. 2012. 15(2):29-39.

March of Dimes. Nurse of the year awards.


About the Author

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC, began her practice more than 24 years ago as a neonatal nurse working in NICU. She has experience in various nursing leadership roles including neonatal transport nurse, outpatient nurse manager, and administrative nurse manager overseeing operations of large intensive care units. She has special interest in quality improvement and improving clinical outcomes for neonates. Patrice currently works full-time as a Clinical NICU Specialist for Medela LLC.