Nurse burnout can only be addressed at the health system level, and beginning in your unit is one way to get that process started.

What the Research Tells Us

Team-building activities and expressive workshops that promote well-being and self-care have been proven to reduce burnout in oncology settings, and one strategy is acknowledging the value of your team’s work and recognizing individuals with kindness and support. Promoting positivity in the workplace can go a long way in helping nurses’ mental and emotional health.

How to Practice

Get the new year off to a great start by initiating a year-long chain of positivity and implementing a calendar system that promotes daily positive reminders in your unit. Using ONS’s downloadable calendar template—or hosting a team activity to create your own—make a calendar page for every month. Fill in the days with events or activities your staff is looking forward to, and add everyone’s birthday or work anniversary so you can celebrate milestones together.

Now, write one positive reminder or affirmation on a sticky note to evoke a supportive feeling across your team, and place it on the first day of the month. Repeat until you’ve covered every day in the month. As your team members pass the calendar, encourage them to take the sticky note from the corresponding day and keep it for themselves to start their shift on a positive note. But there’s a catch—if someone takes a sticky note, they must leave another in its place. Keep a stack of sticky notes close by so they can write a new note to encourage the next person who walks by.

You can use the concept in other ways, too: when someone has a birthday or anniversary, the team can leave congratulatory notes on the corresponding day for the person celebrating. When your team achieves a goal, leave notes that give shout outs. And as your staff have other ideas to use it, let the calendar evolve organically throughout the year ahead. Encourage your team to be proactive and to look forward to their daily note so the positivity chain flourishes all year long.

Editor’s note: If you or your colleagues consistently feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, get support from a mental health professional. The Heroes Health Initiative ( has an array of coping and counseling services for healthcare workers and first responders. Remember, you are never alone.