Leadership | Nursing Organizations

How to Recognize Nursing Excellence In the Workplace

  • Nursing excellence does not go unnoticed but is rarely nominated for awards or accolades by colleagues. 
  • Workload, lack of writing skills, and perceived insignificance of awards is just one of many reasons why few take the time to nominate each other.  
  • You don’t have to be a nine-time published author to be able to nominate a nurse. By following a few simple steps, you could make a nurse’s day or even year by going the extra mile to recognize nursing excellence.

Renae Black

RN, BSN, MSN, CNM, Commander of USN

May 20, 2022
Simmons University

Healthcare organizations have processes in place to recognize nursing excellence.  Staff recommend nurses who demonstrate exceptional leadership and clinical skills that contribute to the success of the organization.  Nominations are submitted with quarterly awards given to the winners during a ceremony.   

However, only a fraction of the staff takes the time to nominate deserving candidates.  Sadly, many exceptional nurses do not get recognized for their contributions.   

Barriers that limit nominations are due to the high patient acuity and heavy workload, the perceived lack of creative writing skills, and the assumption that awards are insignificant. This article explores tools to make the task less daunting.

nursing excellence recognition

Barriers to Recognizing Nursing Excellence

Not Enough Time In The Day

First, most nurses work 12 hour shifts at local medical centers.  Outsiders dream of a 3-day work week and are envious of the RNs who only work 3 days and have 4 days off.  In theory this sounds like an ideal schedule.   

The reality, however, is that the 12-hour shift quickly morphs into 13-14 hours plus the commute.  Employees go home for the night, only to return in 9 hours for another 12-hour shift.    

The census is at capacity and the high acuity during the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to exhaustion and burnout.   

Few RNs have the time to consider much beyond basic survival mode during these intense work weeks, let alone carve out a few minutes for a glowing write up of a co-worker.  Eat, sleep, work and repeat.  That is how we do the not so envious 3-day work week. 

Lack of Creative Writing

Secondly, creative writing is normally not a strength for those of us in healthcare.  The ideal candidate in a nursing career is a people person and is passionate about science.    

RNs have skill sets that draw in their knowledge of science and apply critical thinking skills to best care for patients.   

It is unusual to find RNs with strong science backgrounds that can also write well outside of research papers.  It is rare to find an RN with a double major in creative writing or journalism.    

As a result, few staff have the time or confidence to share written work with others.  The nomination a of coworker is no different.  Individuals with exceptional clinical and leadership skills are out there waiting for the recognition they crave. 

Insignificance of Nursing Excellence Recognition

Thirdly, winning an award in nursing makes little difference to the RNs who do not receive it.  But, the RN who receives the nomination and wins a nursing excellence award is usually humbled and grateful that someone took the time to see their value to the profession. 

He or she may not get anything more than recognition and maybe a special parking place for the month, but they will take it with pride.  

The nomination may not make a difference to most people, but it should.  The unit gets attention for tirelessly caring for patients, showcases the accomplishments of all staff, and gives Nursing Services attention for outstanding performance.  

   The Nursing director has bragging rights as he/she presents nominees and recipients of the awards to the medical center and beyond.   It is a morale building and a public relations event for the medical center.  With a little more effort, it reaches into the community to show everyone how dedicated staff are to serving their community.


nursing excellence awards

Process For Nominating Nursing Excellence

We know why nurses do not nominate coworkers, but how do we get past this?  

Start simple.  Jot down ideas in the bullet format as you go through your workday.  They don’t need to be grammatically correct. Just get the idea down on paper.   

Go back to these notes a few days later and work through the grammar.   Write in the active tense.  Identify specific examples of hard work.  Discover the art that allows one to say more with less.   

This is an example of the bullet format after brainstorming a write up for a Labor and Delivery nurse. 

Next is a first draft with a stronger statement.  Think about the write up for a day or two and go back to edit it again until you feel it is ready for submission. 

Here is an example of what one might jot down about Jane Doe and how to jazz up the statement:

Jane Doe is never late.  Can always count on her. 

  • Jane Doe is punctual and arrives on time for all shifts and is consistently eager to relieve the off going shift.  

Takes the “hard” patients. 

  • Eagerly accepts challenging and complicated patients.  

Allows patients follow a specific birth plan. 

  • Insists that patients actively participate as they design the ideal labor, delivery and birth experience. 

Includes family and visitors in the labor and delivery 

  • Includes the family in the labor and delivery experience to make for a special and memorable  delivery.

Notifies providers of progress of her patients. 

  • Keeps the providers well informed of the interventions, fetal monitoring and deviations from the normal labor.  

Charting is accurate. 

  • Documentation is complete and timely.

Works well with others 

  • Communicates well with the charge nurse, surgical tech and providers.  

Fills in as charge nurse 

  • Able to provide relief charge nurse duties as needed.

Can work any job on L&D. 

  • Expertly transitions from charge nurse, newborn care nurse, labor nurse and circulation RN in the operating room within the same shift.  

Finish this off by adding an introductory paragraph and the closing remarks.  



nursing excellence list

The Bottom Line

Congratulations, you have just drafted a nomination, recognized nursing excellence and celebrated a co-worker’s dedication to the profession.  Feels good, doesn’t it?


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