Meaningful Recognition for Nurse Managers: The Time Is Now!

Bonnie and Mark Barnes, co-founders of The DAISY Foundation, contributed the following guest blog as part of symplr's celebration of National Nurses Week.

Nurses are natural leaders, whether or not the word leader is in their title or job description. Their advocacy for patients, resourcefulness, innovative thinking, ability to think critically, and solve problems are all qualities of nurse leaders—and we see leadership in DAISY Award nominations we read every day.

As National Nurses Week (May 6-12) approaches, we’d like to focus on one particular leadership role in nursing: that of nurse manager or similar titles for the nurses who head up a nursing unit.

This nurse essentially serves as the unit's CEO, responsible for:

  • Communicating directions from senior leaders to staff nurses in the unit
  • Ensuring that all nurses in the unit have the tools and the training they need to take the best possible care of patients and families
  • Providing for the well-being of their teams and maintaining staff satisfaction
  • Managing large budgets

Often, they're also called on to be the link to a patient’s family members who are having to make the most difficult decisions about their loved ones. And when staffing is tight, they step right in to personally take care of patients. They are role models for their teams in so many ways.

Most healthcare executives we know tell us the job of nurse manager is the “toughest in the building.”

As the pandemic has taken its toll on healthcare professionals, it has not missed having a terrible effect on nurse managers and other leaders. The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) conducted an extensive three-survey study on the impact of the pandemic on nurse leaders. The study revealed extensive and significant insight that healthcare systems must hear, though we’ll share just two data points from the research here:

  • Sadly, it found that as a result of the pandemic, one in three nurse managers describe themselves as “emotionally unhealthy.” 
  • The study identified several changes nurse managers want in their jobs to help them have a healthier work-life balance. One of the things nurse leaders said they would like to see expanded following the pandemic is wider recognition of their contributions.

Nurse leaders are the first to ensure that the nurses on their teams are recognized, and they're the last to be included in formal recognition programs like The DAISY Award. While we at DAISY cannot fix the structural issues of this role—the long hours, 24/7 accountability, the large numbers of nurses reporting to them, the inflexible hours (all things that AONL and healthcare systems are now working to improve)—we can do something about their request for more recognition and acknowledgement of their vital role in healthcare.

So in partnership with AONL and with generous support from symplr, in February we launched a significant initiative called Beyond Gratitude: A Tribute to Nurse Managers. This is a comprehensive communications program found on the website We are running a social media campaign, and we provide tools to healthcare systems that do numerous things: 

  • We say thank you to nurse managers for their commitment to their very challenging jobs. We see what they are going through, and we hear what they are saying must be done to make their work more satisfying.
  • We explain to those in executive leadership positions and others what the nurse manager job entails, how important it is to the very survival of a health system, and why it is often described as the hardest job in the building, all supported with evidence.
  • We describe the impact of meaningful recognition of, and gratitude for, nurse managers and show how adding The DAISY Nurse Leader Award is an easy way to honor what these professionals do daily for their teams and their patients.
  • We provide tools for healthcare organizations to say thank you to their nurse managers and other leaders. The toolkits we created remind all that a thank you can be a little thing, like a note left on a manager’s computer. Or, it can be a larger gesture, like a group of clinicians collaborating to nominate their manager for The DAISY Nurse Leader Award.

The Beyond Gratitude materials on are ready to be downloaded, customized, translated—whatever it takes to bring meaningful recognition to this very important role.

To all in healthcare not already including The DAISY Nurse Leader Award in their organization, we encourage you to add it to your DAISY program and select nurse managers and other leaders for meaningful recognition throughout the year.

To give you an example of an inspiring DAISY Nurse Leader Honoree, we introduce to you DeLinda DeSuze, MSN, RN, Nurse Manager of Hoag 6 at NYU Langone Health in Long Island, New York.

The following is her DAISY nomination:

There are many different definitions of leadership. When discussing the leadership style of this manager, humanism runs deep because as a nurse leader her focus remains people-centered. This manager understands the value of managing up her staff with recognition at daily huddles of all staff mentioned in patient experience comments, discharge call comments, and leadership rounds. This manager creates an environment where attributes of trust, compassion, mutual respect, and ethical behavior are modeled and supported.

For example, as you walk onto this unit, you immediately feel the teamwork present among all staff. Each staff member radiates a sense of pride and accomplishment as you round on patients and staff alike. The staff knows when a problem or concern is raised; this manager will work to resolve the issue in collaboration with her staff. This manager continues to motivate her staff through active engagement and shared governance. This manager was instrumental in the transitioning of the unit-based council to a service line council where each medical unit had similar projects and goals. Establishing a cohesive service line council supports teamwork, a collaborative sharing of ideas, and the ability to develop partnerships among the medical units to improve the patient experience.

This unit weathered a vacancy rate greater than 40%. The staff never once focused on this challenge. Rather, their focus remained one of mutual respect and communication. They continued to care for patients and each other to ensure positive patient outcomes and staff resiliency. This manager encouraged teamwork, critical thinking, and a shared vision of how patients and staff are cared for. The patient satisfaction scores resonated positive results.

As you watch DeLinda in motion, her actions both verbal and nonverbal are intentional and direct as a model of expectation. This manager has worked closely to build a collaborative environment among all disciplines in order to support a positive patient transition back into their community.

Before this leader leaves for the day, she thanks the team members for their work. In addition, she visits each patient to inform them she is leaving, and the night staff will be here to care for them with kind competent hands. The DAISY Award for Nurse Leaders is awarded to leaders who create an environment of compassion and recognition for others. This manager provides a setting steeped in compassion, which resonates with her staff as patients, and their families are cared for with deep humanity.

Examples of this manager’s compassion include her willingness to provide patient care while and still role modeling professional expectations. In 2019, this manager helped her unit raise over $2,000 with a fundraising effort for the Jones Beach Breast Cancer Walk. Additionally, during the height of COVID, this manager organized with her daughters and community a donation of caretaker snacks and wellness packages for her unit. This manager is active in several hospital committees and councils including Hospital Wide Readmission Council, Falls Council, Safe Patient Handling Council, Quality & Safety Committee, Nurse Managers Council, and Nassau/Suffolk Council. This manager is also active in her community as a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Woman.

It's time for us to ensure that managers and other nurse leaders like DeLinda receive the recognition they are so quick to give to others. Let’s shine the light on all the right they do with The DAISY Nurse Leader Award. And thank you, symplr, for making this important initiative possible thanks to your generous support!

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