5 Ways Nursing Leaders Can Help a Nurse Amid Caregiver Burnout

July 28, 2023
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Nurses are experiencing unprecedented care fatigue and burnout — but there’s one action nursing leaders could take that costs little to nothing.

“Everybody needs to feel a sense of accomplishment in the work that they're doing. It doesn't matter what you're doing, that's important,” said Earl Dalton, Health Carousel’s Chief Nursing Officer. He has more than 25 years experience in nursing.

“There are too many nurses …. that just have to stop and lay things down. They can’t get them to it all,” he said. “Their sense of completeness and their sense that they got things done aren't there.”

Over time, that can affect the fulfillment and satisfaction of the nurse. If left unchecked, care fatigue leads to burnout. Burnout leads to higher call out rates, turnover and declining patient satisfaction.

“What is incredibly common in healthcare is that the negative stuff is sticky and sticks to people. It tends to weigh on people’s minds,” Dalton said.

One simple way to help support nurses, increase morale and ultimately protect patient care: Consistently recognize and show appreciation for the good work of your nurses.

Recent research shows that symbolic awards -- like congratulatory cards or public recognition -- can significantly increase morale, performance and retention, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Recognition is powerful, Dalton agrees. Nursing leaders can get creative in how they express this, but it can be as simple as a handwritten note or thank you card.

“Those things are worth their weight in gold and really cost nothing, but are so incredibly impactful and powerful to a nurse,” he said in a recent interview for Health Carousel’s podcast, The Workforce Solution.

Listen to the related podcast episode now on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and iHeartRadio.

Dalton recommends adopting a scorecard model, where nursing leaders track how often they’re recognizing nurses daily or weekly.

Below are 5 ideas for healthcare or nursing leaders to recognize and show appreciation for a nurse.

5 Ways Nursing Leaders Can Recognize a Nurse

1. Say “thank you” or offer a compliment daily.

A simple kudos or verbal compliment can go a long way. Things like “I’m so glad you’re part of the team” could be well received.

Timely and specific feedback is best, Dalton said. So mention something specific you noticed the nurse say or do that day, even something as simple as a procedure done correctly.

2. Deliver a handwritten note.

The HBR researchers suggested personalized letters to the employees that start with a sentence like: “Your work has consistently had a positive impact on the patients you work with.”

Dalton said he’s also seen nursing leaders who leave a thank you card or Post-It note on a nurse’s desk or even on their windshield.

“Now nurses feel like they've got a leader who cares, a leader that's watching their performance specifically,” Dalton said.

3. Bring the team together for non-work meetings.

When you bring the team together, it creates a sense of community and builds social support. Take advantage of opportunities to celebrate achievements or special occasions.


  • Celebrate a birthday, work anniversary or achievement together with lunch, a treat or coffee.
  • Invite the nursing unit to a baseball game or a community event.
  • Schedule a team-building event just for fun, like mini golf, an escape room or a DIY craft.
  • Start a book club.

4. Show you care about their interests.

Do you know the interests, hobbies or personal passions of your nurses? Show genuine interest. The personal touch can go a long way.

For example: If one of your nurses loves gardening, grab a copy of Home & Garden magazine for him or her.  If you and one of the nurses both love a specific sports team, share an interesting article you read.

5. Create a list of award opportunities in your city or state.

Individual nurses or entire units may qualify for awards at city, state, regional or even national levels. Common awards include nurse of the year, local heroes and women in business.

Search Google, check with your state nursing association or ask your local Chamber of Commerce.

Create a list of awards that might apply, now or in the future. Then set a calendar reminder once a quarter to review that list and consider if you have any nominees.

Examples of state-level awards:

Featured national awards:

  • The DAISY Foundation is one of the most prestigious awards in the nation to recognize extraordinary nurses. Learn more here.
  • Women in Healthcare celebrates women in the industry with several awards, from rising star to making a difference. See award categories here.
  • The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) honors outstanding individuals and organizations in the area of rural health. See more about the Rural Health Awards here.

Dalton and the board-certified clinical team at Health Carousel have more than 100+ combined years of hands-on clinical experience. They leverage that first-hand experience when they screen and interview candidates for you, accelerating the placement of high-quality providers.

They provide onboarding and training and continue to be available 24/7 to provide coaching or resolve any clinical issues that may arise.

For more information about Health Carousel’s world-class recruiting and staffing solutions, click here.

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About Health Carousel

Health Carousel is committed to partnering with world-class healthcare facilities across the country, providing rewarding assignments for Registered Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, and attracting the best internal talent at all career levels.