Awards

Recognition Matters

By Shalon Buchs, MHS, PA-CFebruary 26, 2020

Credit: PAEA

Thank you for noticing!

Everyone has experienced that incredibly uplifting and positive feeling that follows a thumbs up, pat on the back, a “nice job,” or some greater form of praise from someone. Praise and encouragement in any aspect of life is always appreciated. And, it has been studied extensively, particularly in the workplace. Recognition, when used appropriately, can be quite powerful. The person being recognized as well as the achievement itself should be considered in how acknowledgement is delivered. It may equate to a simple thank you or a meaningful conversation for the value a person brings to a team — or it could be a pay raise or a national award with professional recognition. Whether recognition comes in the form of monetary compensation, words of praise or encouragement, a promotion, or a high-profile award, it is full of meaning for both the giver and receiver and can result in meaningful gains in the form of engagement, productivity, and outcomes.1

PAEA’s Long-Standing Awards Program

PAEA has a well-established awards and honors program. Through this program, the Association promotes excellence in PA education and furthers the culture of recognition among PA educators through the PAEA Faculty and Staff Awards and Pi Alpha. Recipients of these awards have shared their reactions:

“Initially I was shocked when I received the email from the PAEA Awards Committee and had to read it twice. I felt extremely honored to be receiving the Leadership Development Award. I was especially grateful to my fellow PA educators for their friendship and our shared dedication to our PA students.”       
— Patrick Auth, PhD, PA-C, first recipient of Leadership Development Award, 2017

“Receiving PAEA’s Clinical Education Award has been the greatest honor of my career as a PA. I have been fortunate to work with colleagues across many different programs who are doing incredible things and have taught me so much. To be recognized amongst such an amazing group of peer educators whom I greatly admire left me incredibly grateful and humbled. I feel so lucky to be able to be a PA educator and am appreciative of the opportunities I have been given.”
— Amanda Moloney-Johns, MPAS, PA-C, recipient of the 2017 Clinical Education Award

A Win for Everyone

Recognition programs have been especially effective in the workplace — even at the simplest level.  Acknowledgement and encouragement are powerful ways to inspire and motivate people. According to Forbes, recipients of direct recognition for their efforts are happier in the workplace and at home. Additionally, happier employees are more productive! Gallup surveys show that employee recognition programs, when implemented correctly, can impact a wide variety of outcomes including productivity, turnover, and absenteeism. It is important that the program have clearly outlined eligibility criteria for the higher levels of recognition, and that recognition be fair, consistent, and timely.2 In a 2016 survey, Gallup found that money isn’t the only — or even top form — of recognition. The most memorable method among respondents was public recognition or acknowledgement via an award or certificate. According to a study in 2016 by Officevibe, 82% of employees think it is better to give praise than a gift.

Similar to the Gallup surveys, several leadership guides outline approaches that include the importance of praise and recognition. Some place this praise and recognition system within the trust and relationship-building aspect of the approach, while others allow it to stand alone. Either way, it’s clear that encouragement is an essential part of the framework to a successful leadership model as outlined by many successful leadership training programs. According to these programs, when sincere and well-timed recognition is combined with other leadership practices, inspired people emerge.

One study evaluating the impact of recognition programs in the workplace found that frequent, genuine recognition helped maintain employee engagement, increased motivation, improved performance, and boosted morale.3 This assurance that employees are engaged in their work can ultimately drive outcomes. Lori Palfreyman of the Rutgers University PA program spoke about how receiving the Excellence Through Diversity Award from PAEA in 2018 further engaged her program in its work in that area.

“Receiving the PAEA Excellence in Diversity Award has been incredibly meaningful for the Rutgers PA Program because it recognizes the exemplary effort that we are making to increase diversity and foster an inclusive climate. The award validates our ideals and illustrates that our vision is shared by PAEA leadership. Since receiving the award, our aspiration to be PA leaders in diversity and inclusion has kicked into high gear. The program enthusiastically highlights our track record of achievement with prospective applicants, and school administration uses it to promote the diversity success of the larger university. We are incredibly grateful for the increased opportunities that have come our way since receiving this award.”
— Lori Palfreyman, MS, PA-C, Rutgers University PA Program

Make Someone’s Day

The feedback about the Awards Luncheon received in the Education Forum survey frequently includes the word “inspiring,” further giving credibility to claims that recognition programs inspire people. At PAEA we realize that PA educators around the country are doing outstanding work behind the scenes to train the next generation of our great profession — work that is both innovative and inspiring to others. So let’s remember to regularly give our colleagues words of encouragement, at a minimum. Even better, PAEA’s Faculty and Staff Awards offer an opportunity to nominate and publicly recognize our outstanding colleagues for their efforts in shaping PA education around the country. If you know someone worthy of a PAEA award, please take this opportunity to offer some well-deserved peer recognition. Visit the Awards webpage today for the list of awards, eligibility criteria, and necessary materials for nomination.


1. Kaufman T, Chapman T, Allen J. The Effect of Performance Recognition on Employee Engagement. New York: Cicero Group; 2013.
2. Harter JK, Schmidt FL, Agrawal S, Plowman SK, Blue A. The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes. Washington, DC: Gallup Poll Consulting University Press; 2013.
3. Bartlomiejczuk G. How do recognition programs impact employee engagement and how have companies with a large global footprint structured such programs to drive results? Cornell University ILR School; 2015.

Shalon Buchs, MHS, PA-C

Shalon is the associate program director at the University of Florida School of Physician Assistant Studies and serves as the chair of PAEA’s Awards and Honors Committee.