By Carol Gaido-Schmidt, BSN, MBA, RN, CSN
Last night I dreamed about a hospital at which I once worked. In my dream the hospital was closing down. It sounds like an odd dream, except that two of the four hospitals I have worked at have indeed closed.
I think about it now — the people I worked with, the relationships that we built — and I think that the closure of a hospital is one of the saddest things that any nurse can go through in his or her work life.
I know change is constant in healthcare. But closure, well, that’s permanent. This particular hospital was a great place to work.
What makes the difference between greatness and a nightmare? After all, we do the same tasks wherever we go. I have thought a lot about it, and I believe it’s the team.
There is something about a great team. Chalk it up to good leadership, careful hiring or simply coincidence, but every now and then a group of people come together who click. Like a championship football team, they learn to work together, playing off one another’s strengths and weaknesses, supporting each other, caring about each other. They become almost like family.
Sure there is friction, as in any family. But on a very deep level there is a strength that comes from interpersonal bonding that makes a great team unstoppable. No individual is the star. The team is the star. Patients feel it, and they benefit from it. Quality improves and patient satisfaction improves.
Patient care is always our primary focus. We strive to provide good care wherever we go. But a great team will provide great care.
When nurses are unhappy, care will suffer. Unhappy nurses leave quickly, care becomes fragmented and a vicious cycle of unhappiness, poor care, high turnover and general decline will turn the workplace into a place of misery. Members of a great team feel a sense of belonging that leads to improved morale and performance.
To create great teams we need to recognize that nurses do not exist in a vacuum. A nurse is not just a body to fill a shift. We are all people with strengths and weaknesses, who need each other’s support. We need to foster interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
It is important for staff to have opportunities to connect and get to know one another. Meetings, classes, luncheons, even activities outside of work hours can bring people together. New staff should be included and not left to flounder alone.
We deal with some of the most profound human suffering that anyone can witness. At work we must remain calm and professional in the midst of chaos. We must appear to be in control at all times, when we know that complete control is an illusion. This takes a toll on nurses, whether we acknowledge it or not. It wears on the spirit. The only thing that keeps us going is each other. We know we care about the patients. Sometimes we forget to care about each other. Together we are stronger. Take time to know each other, take time to care, be part of a team.
Carol Gaido-Schmidt, BSN, MBA, RN, CSN, works at the Beaver County (Pa.) Career & Technology Center.
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