Those who practice emergency medicine work hard, sacrifice sleep, and masterfully multi-task to care for patients who often do not, or cannot, thank us. Some clinicians concurrently serve as educators, administrators, and staff supporters, going above and beyond to attempt to better the lives of others. Members of our profession rarely get a break from the constant assault to our psyche and morale from our work environment, whether it be from patient care, social factors, or administrative burdens. It is true that we may not receive much thanks from our patients. However, we could probably do a better job of recognizing each other’s hard work and accomplishments. We often take it for granted as if what we’re doing is just “part of the job.” Some emergency departments probably do practice some form of recognition and “thanks” for their staff, but are we doing enough as a profession to recognize and appreciate the hard, important, sacrificial work of our peers?
Years ago, a friend said to me, “Compliments are free, so why not give them?” It was the response he gave me after I seemed surprised when he paid me a compliment. This simple sentiment seemed mind-blowing at the time and has stuck with me ever since. This is such a simple concept, and its lack of implementation both inside and outside our workplaces is unfortunate.
Validation can be a simple but powerful tool in the fight against burnout. In 2017, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) released a white paper that identified these nine critical components of a system for ensuring a joyful, engaged workforce:
- Rewards and recognition
- Camaraderie and teamwork
- Meaning and purpose
- Choice and autonomy
- Physical and psychological safety
- Wellness and resilience
- Real-time measurement
- Daily improvement (building opportunities to learn from mistakes and make science-based improvements into daily practice)
While all these components together are needed to make a joyful and engaged workplace, creating programs that encourage rewards, recognition, and validation is a simple step every department should take. A statement of validation can be extremely gratifying for an employee and help reestablish passion for emergency medicine.
In 2018, the ACEP Wellbeing Committee launched the Gratification in Emergency Medicine (GEM) Project under the leadership of Diann Krywko, MD, in an effort to tackle the first facet of the IHI report, rewards and recognition. The goal was to ask a critical question: “What matters to us?” A voluntary and confidential study was conducted in spring 2018 via an email survey to members of the ACEP Wellness Section (n=760) and Wellbeing Subcommittee (n=45).