I Got Hugged

Recently as I was leaving NorthBay Healthcare’s fitness center where I regularly work out, I was stopped by an oncology nurse who works in the cancer center located in the same building. She told me that it was her last day before retiring and was it ok for her to hug me?

That request gave me pause. Would it be appropriate for me to let her hug me? I knew the nurse slightly as I did many employees before I hit the beach. I had run into her occasionally as I meandered around NorthBay’s various service sites. I knew her to be a very dedicated nurse. Why would she want to hug me?

I got real and put away my fears of being accused of acting inappropriately. I no longer was in a position of authority and if she wanted to hug me, why not? So I opened my arms and accepted her hug.

She thanked me for having supported the cancer center from its inception and through its growing pains. I thanked her for her long term tenure and her commitment to giving patients the very best in care. I wished her well as she joined me on the beach.

I spent several days mulling over the hug. The whole incident left me a little puzzled. I eventually realized that she was recognizing me for having done something that in her mind merited a hug. She made me feel good.

I always felt that recognizing the people who served our patients, no matter their job description, was the right thing to do. As do most organizations of any size, we had a formal recognition program which included an annual employee recognition program. I suspect, though, that such programs alone are insufficient to convey to staff that their efforts are appreciated and that they are not faceless inputs into the patient care process.

I don’t have answers to what more we can or should do to better recognize the contributions of staff to an organization’s mission. I think more ideas are probably needed. We need more metaphoric hugs to recognize staff.

As we approach the holiday season, things tend to get hectic and we forget to recognize people and their efforts. It is natural but wrong.

All I know is that I got hugged and it felt very good. I hope everyone gets a “hug” in the workplace when they have earned it.

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