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Learning to Give Feedback to Peers

Monday March 6, 2000
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Last year, our hospital system participated in an employee survey. We discovered that our cardiothoracic ICU needed to work on giving and receiving feedback. Before the survey, I talked to the staff about the possibility of doing peer evaluations as an adjunct to the performance evaluation done by the manager. Peer evaluations can be a structured time for staff members to give feedback about their peers' performance and to identify strengths and areas in which development is needed.
Nurses in the critical care environment face high demands in the areas of decision making and accountability. With this may come critical and stressful situations. Staff members work together closely and depend on each other for advice and consultation. This close working environment affords them the ability to offer suggestions for improvement and identify the strengths of their peers.
Many staff felt that, based on some of the employee survey results, this was a good time to begin the peer evaluation process. We as a unit decided to develop a peer evaluation process as part of our unit's action plan.
I asked for a group of volunteers from all shifts to participate with me on a small, unit-based team. The first step was to review the status of peer evaluations in the literature. Several articles were selected and copied for each member to review before our meeting. When the unit-based team met, we identified guidelines based on our literature review and staff suggestions, as follows:
The peer evaluation process has been designed to be anonymous to encourage openness and thoroughness.
Each staff member will be assigned a number according to shift by the patient care manager (PCM).
The PCM will randomly select two numbers, one from the shift the staff member being evaluated is regularly scheduled to work and the other from the shift to which the employee being evaluated reports.
The staff members who have the numbers corresponding to those picked will complete the peer evaluation on the employee being evaluated.
The employee being evaluated will complete a self-evaluation using the same form.
The PCM will give the peer evaluation tool to the randomly selected staff members.
The peer evaluation tool will be given to the selected staff at least three to four weeks in advance of the date on which the employee's performance evaluation is done.
All completed tools will be returned to the PCM two weeks after receipt.
The PCM will compile the information to ensure anonymity.
Each RN completing the peer evaluation should spend 35 to 40 minutes completing the evaluation to give valuable input to the evaluation process.
The evaluation should be done at break time - not at the bedside - to ensure anonymity.
Comments and specific examples are strongly encouraged.
The PCM may return the evaluation to the person who handed it in if it is not completely filled out or if it needs fine tuning.
We developed the tool by starting with one being used elsewhere in the system and adding information from the literature we researched. After the team developed the guidelines and finalized the evaluation tool, it was distributed to each staff nurse. A cover letter was attached instructing the staff to review and get back to the team with questions or concerns.
The RN staff began using the peer evaluation tool in November. We hope to include other disciplines in the future, such as the unit secretaries and patient care technicians.
We began the peer evaluation process because there was a need for coworkers to give feedback to each other. I feel that the process will do that, but I also see it being helpful in other areas. Often staff feel that the manager or shift supervisor having the sole input into their evaluation doesn't reflect their true performance. The peer evaluation, in addition to the manager/supervisor input, makes the process more fair and accurate. It increases the validity of the overall evaluation by allowing input from more than one source.
Although the peer evaluation process is still new for our unit and is going through some growing pains, the staff and I feel it has been and will continue to be beneficial.