Clark Fork Valley Hospital, Plains, Montana

Clark Fork Valley Hospital (CFVH) has been recognized by the National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) for its use of innovative employee retention strategies. 

The “Best Practices Recognition,” presented by the Technical Assistance & Services Center (TASC), a program of The Center, and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, recognizes innovative approaches to workforce recruitment and retention in the country’s critical access hospitals, small rural hospitals, rural EMS agencies, and rural health clinics. CFVH, a 16-bed critical access hospital located in Plains, Montana, earned the honor because an employee recognition program operated by one of its managers was identified as an effective tool to improve staff retention and reduce staff turnover. 

“Our people are our greatest asset and in today’s industry, where we are continually seeing shortages among health care professionals, we realize the importance of employee retention,” said Dr. Gregory Hanson, CFVH’s president and CEO. “Utilizing employee recognition to harness engagement and satisfaction needs to be a part of our culture. We want our employees to know they are valued for their contributions that ultimately make our organization viable.” 

The hospital’s nursing manager, Danita Grossberg, has taken a creative approach to identifying and rewarding staff performance in the Acute Care/Emergency Department that she oversees: Birthdays are celebrated. Holidays are celebrated. Employee Recognition Weeks (like Nurses Week) are celebrated. Work anniversaries are celebrated. 

There’s food — pizza, candy, snacks. There’s cards — personalized and mailed to employees’ homes. There’s gifts — gift certificates and promotional swag that includes the hospital’s branding.  

There’s also an employee of the month board, whose winners are nominated by peers. And “kudos cards” that are publicly displayed and recognize employees who have done something exceptional.  

At the heart of this employee recognition program is a simple understanding: Employees who feel appreciated through meaningful recognition are more likely to feel empowered, they’re more likely to personalize the care they provide and they’re more likely to consistently engage in behaviors that help the hospital achieve its mission.  

Employee recognition — in conjunction with other hospital-wide programs (an employee wellness program), hospital-hosted special events (a summer BBQ and annual gala), and other forms of recognition (like service awards) — is making a tangible difference: Staff turnover has decreased. 

The hospital will receive a certificate of recognition and be profiled in the TASC monthly newsletter and on the TASC program website.