Hospitals are one of the most difficult places to work. But they're also one of the most fulfilling. Why? Because helping others is an extremely powerful motivator.

But people cannot live on intrinsic motivation alone. They need to know that others appreciate the work they do, which is something that the managers at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, understand.

Good Samaritan's CREW (Celebrating and Recognizing Employees' Work) plans and implements formal and informal recognition programs. It consists of 12 employees drawn from a cross-section of hospital staff. Those dozen cheerleaders have come up with some innovate ideas, such as:

Samaritan Stars: Six times a year, 10 employees are recognized for exemplifying each of Good Samaritan's SPIRIT standards: Spirit, Professionalism, Information and Communication, Responsibility, Initiative, and Teamwork.

Gasoline Cards: When a large hospital in Dayton closed last year, patients and workload swiftly multiplied. To thank employees for their hard work, the CREW passed out $10 gasoline cards to all staff.

Good Samaritan of the Month: Employees named on patient satisfaction surveys are crowned Good Samaritans of the Month and are recognized at a special reception.

Blue-Ribbon Bake-Off: In this annual event, employees strive to create the most fabulous, mouthwatering baked goods possible.

Annual Collection Drive for the Homeless Clinic: Some CREW events are designed not only to motivate employees but to help the community as well. In the most recent drive, employees collected three vanloads of clothing and other items and raised $1,121 for charity.

It is always possible to come up with ideas and activities that make employees feel valued. Good Samaritan employees know the hospital cares about them and the work they do, and that feeling is passed on to their patients, who consistently rank the hospital in the top 99 percent for customer satisfaction.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, and a frequent lecturer at meetings and associations. He is author of Please Don't Just Do What I Tell You! Do What Needs to Be Done, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, and Managing For Dummies. Contact Bob at (800) 575-5521 or at; you can also sign up to receive his free tip of the week at

Take Out

  • Mission and values should be evident on a daily basis. Many hospitals lose site of their primary need to care for others because of employee stress, staffing shortages, regulations, and paperwork. Recognition reflects an organization's mission and values.

  • Keep it fun; keep it fresh. Simple, informal, spontaneous forms of thanks generate positive energy. To get employees excited, try some exciting things.

  • Recognition of employees affects service to customers. Employees who feel good about themselves and their employer pass those feelings on to the customer.