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How to Motivate Nurses to Improve Their Performance

5 min readSeptember, 14 2023

Nurse managers spend a significant amount of their time recruiting and hiring nurses. The ongoing nursing shortage is a reality of the industry that makes hiring and, in turn, job performance crucial. But if new hires leave or do not meet expectations, the resulting cost and effort to replace staff or to improve performance can impact the quality of patient care and the performance of other team members.

These challenges are common among nurse managers. A recent survey found that nurses are increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of care they’re able to provide. Many indicated they’re likely to leave the profession, giving nurse managers more reason to seek tips and strategies to motivate nurses.

Ways to Improve Work Performance in Nursing

Most nurses choose their profession because they’re passionate about caring for others. Show your nurses you care about them and your organization. Connect their passion to the organization’s goals to nurture a sense of belonging, which may lead to greater job satisfaction and better performance.

Motivated nurses will likely improve their performance, have increased job satisfaction, and help improve patient outcomes. But how do you foster an environment where your staff feels motivated?

Effective Strategies for Motivating Nurses

There are many ways to support and encourage your staff. Try these motivational strategies:

Share the big picture. Does your work environment make nurses feel like part of a community? Communicate the organization’s mission clearly and consistently and let your executive team know how you, your unit, and your nurses fit into this picture. Sharing overall company goals can help nurses feel like their work is part of something bigger and encourage them to set personal goals.

Involve nurses in decision-making. Solicit your nurses’ input on decisions directly impacting their work, patient care, or the unit’s processes. Encourage team members to participate in committees on staffing, workplace violence prevention, and patient safety. And provide autonomy to make clinical decisions within their scope of practice so they feel trusted, empowered, and motivated to perform their job well.

Focus on how you communicate. Establish a supportive and approachable presence and implement regular meetings to grow interpersonal relationships. You’ll encourage a culture of recognition by offering frequent, actionable feedback. Clear expectations regarding care, productivity, and professional conduct are also essential. Then provide ongoing feedback, highlighting areas of improvement and success rather than waiting for a yearly performance review. That advice will help your team set challenging yet achievable goals and expectations that align with their personal and organizational objectives.

Recognize and reward hard work. Offer competitive wages and benefits and reward exceptional performances with incentives or bonuses. Ensure wages align with industry standards through periodic salary reviews but implement other practical tactics to provide ongoing motivation. Recognizing and appreciating your staff’s achievements with thank-you notes and peer recognition can help reinforce your appreciation.

Create a positive work environment. Does your workplace culture encourage meaningful conversation and relationship building? A positive work environment requires ongoing nurturing by celebrating desired behaviors and not tolerating negative behaviors like bullying or incivility. You may have invested time in developing your organization’s culture, but your nursing staff may perceive things differently. Don’t wait for a valued member’s exit interview to find out there’s room for improvement. Seek input regarding the work environment and challenges. By encouraging feedback, you demonstrate that their opinions matter, which can help increase engagement and motivation.

Promote mental and physical wellness. Provide your team with the well-being resources needed to perform their job effectively by offering wellness programs, stress management classes, and counseling services. Educate them on the importance of self-care practices. Focusing on their patients could prove challenging if your nurses are overwhelmed by mental or physical stressors.

Encourage nurses to address safety concerns. Create a culture that prioritizes staff and patient safety and makes nurses feel comfortable reporting safety issues without fear of retaliation. Ensure that their confidentiality is protected and promptly address matters to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to safety.

Foster a work-life balance. Encourage nurses to develop positive coping methods and practice self-care to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue. Emphasize that the organization recognizes the importance of remaining motivated and satisfied. Ensure appropriate staffing and if possible, minimize overtime and offer flexible scheduling options. This ensures staff safety and helps maintain a positive work-life balance.

Offer development opportunities. Provide professional development opportunities for those looking to advance their careers. Give them access to mentoring and coaching programs, training sessions, workshops, conferences, and continuing education. Supporting these investments shows you value your team’s growth.

A group of culturally diverse health care workers are smiling and standing in a group and facing forward.

All Nurses Aren’t Motivated Equally

We’re all motivated in different ways. Understand the needs and aspirations of your staff and tailor nursing motivation strategies accordingly. Evaluate the effectiveness of your motivational tactics and adjust them accordingly to ensure continued focus on performance improvement.

Fostering a culture that supports a healthy work-life balance is vital to motivating nurses. Your organization will reap the rewards by providing nurses with the necessary tools to succeed. Nurses who feel empowered, motivated, and invested in their jobs can provide better care — leading to better patient outcomes.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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