Creating an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’

man receiving award at convention

Show appreciation to employees, patients, and your community.

By Heidi Rose Bender, MBA

What does gratitude truly mean and how can you create a culture of gratitude within your organization? The Brittanica Dictionary defines gratitude as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” As a practice owner, you want to ensure your employees and patients know how thankful you are for them and to them. In keeping with that sentiment, you want to create an atmosphere of appreciation – but where do you start? Creating a culture of gratitude in your practice starts from the top down. For clinic owners and administrators to develop a complete culture of gratitude, employees, patients, and the community at large must all be considered. Each audience is equally important in fully embracing an “attitude of gratitude.”


Employees are the most important resource an organization has to ensure the success of a practice. Thus, demonstrating consistent appreciation and recognition of your employee’s efforts is key to promoting gratitude from within your organization. According to an article in Forbes Magazine by Jonathan Westover, PhD, “It really is quite simple: Thoughtful, sincere, and consistent employee recognition leads to higher levels of individual employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, which drives greater organizational innovation and performance.”1

As an employer, how can you demonstrate your gratitude to your employees in a meaningful way and at the same time engender gratitude within them?

Financial Incentives

Raises based on the achievement of clearly defined employee goals. When raises are based on clearly defined metrics that an employee meets, you are demonstrating your appreciation for the employee’s hard work in achieving their goals and in the larger picture the goals of your organization. Bonuses tied to organizational profitability. When bonuses are given according to the overall success of the organization, employees feel their efforts in being a part of that success are recognized. This will demonstrate your gratitude for the employee’s efforts as well as promote gratitude within the employee.

Recognition Events

In-clinic events designed to recognize and celebrate employee efforts and successes. Examples include employee of the month breakfasts or administrative professionals’ luncheons. Any in-clinic event designed to recognize the individual efforts of employees will promote gratitude within your organization. Out-of-clinic events held during business hours. Examples include holiday parties or sporting events. Employees are paid their daily wage while participating in fun activities on company time. At MRS Physical Therapy, we hold our annual Christmas party at a nice restaurant during the workday. Also, in the past, we have taken all employees to a professional baseball game during the work day. Our goal with these out-of-office activities is to let employees know we are grateful for their contributions to our organization, but we also understand their personal time is valuable. So, we carve out a little time out of the work week to show our gratitude by hosting fun social activities that all employees can participate in.

Verbal Recognition

Verbal recognition might be the simplest and most forgotten element of gratitude. A simple thank-you is very meaningful to employees. Make sure you recognize those efforts that may seem small but are so meaningful to the success of your organization. For example, when one employee agrees to fill-in for another on short notice, make sure you take the time to say how much you appreciate the employee going above and beyond. These small expressions go a long way to promoting gratitude. You are letting your employees know you see them and their efforts both big and small are appreciated.

In addition, make sure you begin each staff meeting with positive employee recognition of some sort. The benefit is two-fold. First, you are promoting gratitude. Second, you are promoting positivity. Many times, meetings can be dry, and employees may tend to tune out. Beginning the meeting with positive feedback may improve employee attentiveness and engagement as well as engender gratitude.

Recognition of Important Events in the Lives of Employees

Another way to show gratitude to employees is to recognize important events in their lives. At MRS we always recognize employee birthdays. Employees typically receive emails from dozens of co-workers wishing them a happy day.

In addition, MRS also recognizes deaths in employees’ families by sending flowers or a remembrance of some sort. Often the owner will attend the funeral if possible.

In recognizing these events, you are letting the employee know you appreciate them in good times and bad times.


Patients are the key in the growth and success of any practice. As a practice owner, it is imperative that patients know you are grateful for their commitment to your practice. This gratitude should begin the first moment they walk through your clinic door and continue long after discharge. What are other ways you can show patients you are so thankful they chose to entrust their care to you?

New Patient Welcome

Each new patient should be greeted by the receptionist and the clinicians with a “thank you for choosing our practice” on their first day. Welcome bags are another way to show gratitude. You should include a thank-you card, information about your clinic, pens and post-its or any other type of promotional item that suits your clinic. During the pandemic, MRS modified our welcome bags to include face masks, hand sanitizer, a thermometer and a pulse oximeter. We wanted to let our patients know how grateful we were that they chose us during the uncertain times of the pandemic.

Patient Appreciation Days

Choosing a day out of the month to recognize patients is a great way to promote gratitude. You can have refreshments and decorate the clinic. Give each patient an award certificate celebrating a recent “success” they achieved during therapy. You can also take pictures and recognize patient successes on social media as long as you have a signed release to ensure there are no HIPAA violations. These small gestures will make your patients feel important and recognized.


It is important to show gratitude for the community because the roots of your practice are in your community. What are some ways to promote gratitude and give back to your community?

  • Hosting food drives
  • Hosting blood drives
  • Hosting toy drives at the holidays
  • Meeting with seniors at senior care centers to discuss health related topics valuable to them
  • Sponsoring a 5k benefitting a local charity
  • Hosting open houses featuring guest speakers on health-related topics

In addition to promoting gratitude, company sponsored community events are a way to promote team-building within your organization. Organizing a 5k is a unique project that will enable employees to work together perhaps using different skills than they typically do in their normal position in the company. Another side benefit of community gratitude events is, of course, marketing! These types of events often bring new faces through the clinic door.

By conveying appreciation frequently and consistently to your employees, patients, and communities, you will promote an atmosphere where gratitude will flourish in your practice. When employees feel recognized and see company leaders endeavoring to promote gratitude, they will likely follow suit spreading gratitude and gestures of gratitude throughout your organization. 


1Westover J. “The Benefits of Showing Gratitude in the Workplace.” Forbes. Published December 29, 2020.

Heidi Rose Bender, MBA

Heidi Rose Bender, MBA, is the VP of operations for MRS Physical Therapy, LP. She has worked in the field of physical therapy since graduating from Gannon University with a Master of Business Administration.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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