16 December 2013

Rewarding civility

I am so impressed with the Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life. The award recognizes individuals who foster appreciation for the vital link between an engaged, active citizenry and a healthy democracy. The first Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life was awarded to David Brooks and Mark Shields for their remarkable commitment to civil discourse. Despite their very different political views, these two gentlemen are consistently respectful and civil in their communications.

It’s my belief that the civility landscape can be shifted for the better by incorporating an important lesson from Parenting 101: When we catch our children doing something right, they need to be rewarded. B.F. Skinner taught us that lesson long ago when he concluded that positive reinforcement makes a difference and, if delivered in a meaningful way, will likely result in the behavior being repeated.

Using this principle as a starting point, my husband and I discussed various ways to reward nursing students for commitment to civility and professionalism. After several conversations, we decided to establish the Clark Civility Award to recognize nursing students who demonstrate sustained commitment to civility. The award is given each semester to a qualifying senior nursing student who exemplifies civility, respect, and professionalism at Boise State University School of Nursing, College of Health Sciences, and beyond.

There are several criteria for the award, including being a contributing member of student organizations and other relevant teams and committees, having a minimum GPA of 3.0, providing a record of service to the community and the profession, and demonstrating respect and civility toward classmates, faculty, nursing staff, patients, and families. Students receiving the award must also show collegiality, trustworthiness, and responsibility. Recipients may be self-nominated or nominated by someone else.

Mark McLaughlin and Yours Truly
Last week, Mark McLaughlin became the first recipient of the Clark Civility Award. He was nominated by a faculty member, who eloquently described McLaughlin’s contributions of outstanding service to the School of Nursing and the broader community, his unwavering respect toward others, and his commitment to teamwork and ethical conduct of the highest order. An excellent student who actively participates in his community, he shows great promise as a professional nurse and consistently goes the extra mile to provide exceptional patient care.

On Wednesday, 11 December 2013, McLaughlin accepted the award, presented by the dean of the College of Health Sciences, during a ceremony attended by his classmates, faculty members, and academic leaders from the School of Nursing. In addition to a monetary award, McLaughlin received a signed copy of my book and a professional plaque commemorating his achievements.

I hope others will be inspired to create similar awards or other ways to reward those who practice civility by catching them doing something right. Perhaps you will be inspired as I am by the words of two very influential women who encourage each of us to make a difference. The first quote comes from Anne Frank, who stated, “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world,” and the other from Helen Keller, who reminded us, “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.”

Let’s all strive to make a difference in the lives of others. By doing so, we make a difference in our own. Here’s wishing you and the people you love—and those who love you back—the happiest of holidays.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.