You Matter Cart Shows Nurses Their Compassion Is Appreciated

The creativity of nurses never fails to delight us. Whether they are solving an equipment or clinical challenge or coming up with ideas to keep their teams together, nurses are expert problem-solvers.

The problem Cindy Lefton, PhD, RN, Patient Experience Advocate at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, had on her mind during the pandemic was how to help her nurse colleagues appreciate that the role they play in health care is a vital one. What kind of human touch could she bring to her co-workers during this most stressful time?

Through her extensive research on the impact of meaningful recognition and having watched nurses respond to being recognized with The DAISY Award for many years at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, she had heard one too many nurses say, “I don’t do anything special. I’m just doing my job.”

Lefton knew that taking their work for granted in this way – especially at the height of a pandemic surge — was fueling burnout and diminishing job satisfaction. She was eager to find a way to communicate to the staff the importance of their contribution and for the hospital to demonstrate that everyone who works at Barnes-Jewish is indeed valued and appreciated.

Mattering is Part of Meaningful Recognition

In addition to being a registered nurse, Lefton holds a PhD in organizational psychology. She is a widely published researcher and a sought-after speaker in the area of meaningful recognition. She is very familiar with the concept of “mattering,” a construct from social psychology that is always present in her thinking about nurses.

Mattering describes the feeling that one makes a difference in the lives of others and has significance in one’s community.

A study demonstrated that the perception of mattering at work is associated with lower levels of burnout. And if there is anything that needs lowering today for nurses, it’s burnout.

Recognizing that regardless of one’s job title, the potential for burnout was present for all healthcare workers, Lefton partnered with Clinical Nurse Specialist Cathy Powers, RN; Sara Shabany, RN, an expert in Compassion Fatigue, an emergency department nurse, and a yoga instructor; and Sarah Colby, the creative soul of the Arts and Healthcare Program, to devise a way to remind healthcare workers that they matter.

Their idea, beautifully supported by executive sponsor Shirley Repta, PhD, MBA, RN, was The You Matter Cart (YMC). At a time when nurses and others could not gather due to COVID-19 restrictions, it seemed to this creative team that they would need to take mattering to their colleagues.

You Matter Cart team prepares to spread some joy. Pictured in forefront: Sara Shabany, RN. Behind the cart, from left, Sarah Colby, Cathy Powers, RN, and Cindy Lefton, RN.

A Bit of Joy and a Few Tchotchkes

The YMC team took a simple rolling cart and bought a lot of what others might think of as “little things” to put on it. Tchotchkes, Lefton calls them, included — pens, journals, coloring books, hand lotion (approved by the infection prevention department, of course). They also added a rack with …read more

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