I really like where I’m working, but I can see some of the nurses seem stressed out, are unwilling to help a fellow nurse or other co-workers, and there’s a general lack of trust among the nurses. It makes me sad because I know it’s a great facility, and I do like my boss. I also know all of this can hinder patient care. I want to learn what I can do to help make a change for the better. Any good articles I can read that would help?
Wants to Boost Department Morale
Dear Wants to Boost Department Morale,
It’s great you recognize what’s happening and want to be proactive to improve things rather than simply complaining about it or ignoring and accepting it. There is an old adage, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
It’s challenging for me to diagnose and suggest treatments without a lot more details and without knowing the players, but I will give you some general guidelines to get started and some suggested resources.
You might start by sitting down with your manager and expressing your observations and concerns along with your willingness to work on solutions. Discuss some possible strategies and get her input. Sometimes a staff meeting or several small group meetings to eventually include everyone, is an important place to start. When people feel angry, unhappy and stressed, they often need to express themselves and vent before they can move forward. It’s akin to opening the valve on a pressure cooker and letting some of the steam out to reduce the pressure before the whole thing blows up. People need to feel listened to and seen.
One you identify the main challenges causing the stress and unhappiness, ask for a few volunteers to work with you on improving the work environment and making things better for everyone. It’s amazing what great ideas and solutions team members can come up with when asked and included. By involving others you get more buy-in. While every problem may not be able to be solved by this team, you can look at what can be improved or changed. Small changes can have big results in the long run.
One challenge many workplaces have is with 12-hour shifts. Staff members don’t socialize together like they did years ago. No one is going to go out for pizza after working 12 or 13 hours, especially if they have to be back the next day. This does not facilitate team-building, getting to know each other or even having fun together, all necessary for good co-worker relations. Contrary to the old adage, familiarity breeds respect. So get ideas of ways to get the group together periodically outside of work. This could be a bowling or softball league or a group project such as a walk for breast cancer to help build team spirit.
Get a commitment from your boss to enforce staff members taking breaks and lunch and to develop or enforce a no-tolerance policy for nastiness and hostility. Offer mandatory in-services on conflict resolution and respectful communication.
These are just a few ways you can start to create a better work environment and improve morale and patient care.
Some suggested books on the subject include “Confident Voices –The Nurses Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces” by Beth Boynton, RN, and “Smart Nursing – How to create a positive work environment that empowers and retains nurses” by June Fabre, RNC.