Gratitude: The special sauce in human connection

Katherine Virkstis, ND Vice President, Clinical Advisory Services, Get Well

In our series inspired by the recent article, Leading with Hope, by Katherine Virkstis, Get Well’s VP of Clinical Advisory Services, we delve deeper into each of the 7 insights from Get Well’s recent CNO Council on the Future of Digital Health. Today, we focus on Insight #5–Gratitude: The special sauce in human connection.

In our fast-paced world, gratitude often gets overshadowed by daily pressures. Yet, its simplicity holds transformative power, profoundly impacting our well-being, relationships, and overall perspective. Gratitude also nurtures humility. Acknowledging that our successes often result from others’ contributions heightens our sense of interconnectedness and community. This humility inspires us to give back, creating a ripple effect of kindness and generosity.

In professional settings, gratitude enhances teamwork and collaboration. Leaders who appreciate employees’ efforts create a positive work environment, boosting morale and clinician well being. Valued employees are more engaged and motivated, contributing to a cohesive and successful organization. The act of recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of our lives, no matter how small, can serve as a potent catalyst for personal growth and fulfillment.,  

Honoring extraordinary nurses

I recently had a unique and truly wonderful opportunity: I was invited by Bonnie and Mark Barnes, Co-Founders of The DAISY Foundation, to attend over a dozen DAISY Award celebrations in various hospitals during Nurses Week. Our tour began at the University of Washington Medical Center Northwest and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where Bonnie and Mark’s son, Patrick Barnes, was cared for before he tragically died at 33 from an autoimmune disease. The DAISY Foundation expresses gratitude to nurses by recognizing their extraordinary compassionate, skillful care for patients and families.

At each celebration, we heard stories about nurses’ actions that touched someone—a patient, a family member, a colleague, a leader. Each nomination captured a moment when a nurse or team made a significant impact. Collectively, these stories formed a colorful quilt, showcasing innovations in safety, moments of profound humanity, and deep emotional connections that quietly, yet powerfully, transform lives.

Often, the most powerful stories were not about grand gestures but quiet moments of nursing: a gentle reassurance, a hand held without hesitation, a comforting smile. These everyday actions might seem small, but they are the beating heart of healthcare: where skilled clinical care intersects with a calm and caring presence during a person’s most challenging moment. Nurses bring comfort where there is fear, understanding where there is confusion, and compassion where there is pain. These moments echo through the lives of patients and their families long after they leave the hospital.

Witnessing these profound moments of gratitude during Nurses Week inspired me and led me to reflect on how such acts of gratitude can be more frequent and accessible in healthcare systems. 

Leveraging technology to foster a culture of gratitude

University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) is a standout example of fostering a culture of gratitude. At a recent Get Well Wednesday, I interviewed two nursing leaders from UTMC: Nicole Simmons, MSN, RN, APRN, ANP-BC, Magnet Program Director, and Laura K. Gilmore, MSN, RN, APRN, ACCNS-AG, CCRN, Nursing Systems Coordinator, Nursing Administration. Nicole and Laura described an unprecedented achievement: their efforts led to a 500% increase in DAISY Award nominations. 

This journey began by identifying barriers to timely recognition. During this process, the team discovered several opportunities to improve:

  • Awareness and accessibility: Many patients and visitors were not aware that they could nominate their nurse for a DAISY award.
  • Too many steps: The nomination form was embedded in a multi-step process, requiring patients to click through several screens to share their nurse’s story. This complexity may have deterred patients who were interested in submitting nominations.
  • Data management issues: Tracking nominations proved challenging as they were collected from three different sources: paper, email, and web. This diversity of channels complicated the consolidation and timely processing of the data.
  • Equipment accessibility: Wireless keyboards, required for submitting nominations at the time, were not always within reach, non-functioning, or needed a new battery.
  • Inconsistent notifications: Nominations that were sent to designated staff via email often did not prompt consistent notifications to the DAISY Coordinator, leading to further delays in the processing and acknowledgment of nominations.

To address these barriers, UTMC implemented a thoughtful strategy that made their nomination process more accessible and streamlined for everyone. This included three main steps: 

  1. QR Code Implementation: UTMC placed QR codes on the sides of patient TV screens. These codes linked directly to the DAISY nomination form, enabling patients and their visitors to access the form quickly by scanning the code with their mobile devices. This method bypassed the need for a keyboard and made the process more accessible.
  2. Scheduled Visual Prompts: To keep the DAISY Award and the nomination process visible and top of mind, UTMC scheduled visual prompts to appear on the patient TV screens. These prompts were programmed to appear twice daily, specifically at 10:30 am and 3:00 pm, times chosen to catch the attention of patients and visitors during peak and quiet hours, thus maximizing visibility and engagement.
  3. Enhanced Tracking and Notification System: UTMC developed a system to ensure that DAISY Coordinators were not only promptly notified of each nomination, but also had the tools to more readily track and manage nomination data from multiple sources. This system facilitated a more efficient and organized approach to handling nominations, ensuring that every gesture of gratitude was acknowledged and managed effectively.

500% Increase in DAISY nominations

The impact of UTMC’s DAISY initiative, which started in July 2023, has been remarkable. Leaders are monitoring several metrics to track success, including unique visits to the DAISY tile in Get Well, responses to daily prompts, and the overall number of DAISY nominations. 

Within the first quarter of launching the new process, they observed an immediate increase in all tracked measures. By the end of Q3 2023, there were 527 visits, 945 in Q4, and 1,174 in Q1 2024. During that same period, the total number of DAISY nominations increased steadily and dramatically– from 56 nominations in Q2 of 2023 to 177 in Q3, 191 in Q4, and 263 in Q1 2024–marking a 500% increase in nominations. 

Lessons learned

UTMC leaders had a few suggestions for other organizations aiming to implement a program like this: 

  • Even though some patients still prefer to use a paper form; the visual cues from the television often prompt them to ask for a paper nomination form.
  • Keyboards aren’t always easily accessible or available in the room for patients. A QR code enables nominators to use a mobile device, which makes it easier to complete. 
  • Allow time for the prompt to remain visible on the television. Patients and visitors may need a few minutes to find their phone and scan the QR code.

Optimizing DAISY within Get Well

These efforts have also inspired change for other healthcare organizations using Get Well. Building on UTMC’s success, Get Well is optimizing the DAISY recognition program across all partner organizations to raise awareness, simplify the process for nominators, and streamline the workflow for staff. New features include: 

  • A DAISY Award screensaver with a QR code to increase visibility and invite patients and their families to nominate their nurse for a DAISY award.
  • Embedded DAISY Video and sample nomination (available in English and Spanish)
  • One-click access to the DAISY nomination form
  • Option for nominator to share name and email
  • Automated and centralized reporting
  • Optional alerts for DAISY Coordinators
  • Tools for “closing the loop”–so patients, families, and other nominators can learn how their nurse was celebrated as a result of their nomination

Nurses who feel valued and appreciated–for who they are as a person and a member of the healthcare team–understand that their work truly ‘matters.’ Digital platforms, including systems that capture gratitude and appreciation from patients and peers, can amplify this core value by ensuring recognition is timely, specific, and professionally meaningful. The integration of these technologies has the power to enhance the emotional and professional well-being of nurses and foster a positive, purpose-driven work environment. To learn more about Get Well’s Point of Care Engagement solution, click here.

1 Annette M. Bourgault, Carl Goforth; Embrace Teamwork to Create and Maintain a Positive Workplace Culture. Crit Care Nurse 1 June 2021; 41 (3): 8–10. doi:

2 American Nurses Association; Teamwork in Nursing: Team Building Strategies for Better Patient Care. ANA Resource Hub 11 July 2023;