Gratitude Tree Supports Nurses’ Well-Being in Critical Care

In spring 2022, Salinas Valley Health Nurse Manager for Telemetry/1 Main (1 Main) and Telemetry/4T (4T) Laurel Black, MSN, RN, CCRN, was preparing for a major unit reconfiguration for 1 Main.

Most nurses on this unit had worked there for many years, and the unit functioned very well as a cohesive team, but it was about to be divided into two smaller units. Change is rarely easy, and Black wanted to support her team during the transition.

She knew that studies demonstrate the importance of meaningful recognition to nurses’ well-being. Recognition can include both mon­etary and nonmonetary elements. With that in mind, Black conducted additional research, which confirmed her belief that some of the most mean­ingful recognition can be in real time, generated during a shift, including a simple thank-you or shout-out during a meeting. Such recognition can immediately boost self-esteem and energy and is especially impactful during difficult shifts.

Expressing our feelings of appreciation to others and ourselves creates positive emotions and feelings of happiness and contentment.

Black decided to adapt an idea suggested by The Greater Good Science Center by creating a Gratitude Tree for both units she managed. Each tree would have a pen and Post-it® notes readily available so that nurses could write a note of gratitude for a co-worker recognizing something they did during a shift. Nurses could hang the notes on the tree, and at the end of the shift, the charge nurse would begin each huddle by reading that day’s notes. “This would not only offer praise for the outgoing shift, but also begin each shift on a positive and grateful note,” Black says. While many forms of formal recognition already existed, Black liked the idea that the Gratitude Tree is easy for clinical nurses to engage with while offering steady recognition.

Leadership Supports the Idea

After receiving enthusiastic support from Critical Care and Emergency Services Director Carla Spencer, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, and Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Paulo, MSN/MPA, RN, CENP, Black submitted a referral to the Critical Care Unit Practice Council (UPC) where she again received strong support, as well as a number of helpful suggestions.

By late June 2022, Black had acquired the trees and put them up on 1 Main and 4T, announcing the initiative in an email to all unit staff. She and the other Critical Care leaders and UPC members discussed the trees during huddles and throughout the initial shifts to help everyone understand the concept. Clinical nurses on both units quickly embraced it.

As one of the nurses stated, “I’m thankful for this project. Thank you for believing that all healthcare workers should practice an attitude of gratitude. Expressing our feelings of appreciation to others and ourselves creates positive emotions and feelings of happiness and contentment. We all have struggles in our daily lives; it’s nice that we have this opportunity to express our gratitude at work and improve each other’s well-being.”

Recommended Articles