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Nurse Leaders: Creating an Optimal Workplace Culture

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

Workplace culture is regularly discussed as an important concept in the world of 21st-century corporate life. However, we can sometimes feel most organizations — including those in healthcare, medicine and nursing — are paying lip service to the idea.

Nurse leaders are at the forefront of the profession, and they are in a position to take decisive and inspired action toward making positive workplace culture a reality, not just a buzzword.

Culture is central

The culture of a healthcare organization can reflect collective mission and values, general philosophy and how the company addresses issues related to human resources, management style and the ways in which staff members are expected to treat one another.

Culture can focus on productivity, work environment, relationships, employee hierarchy, customer service and other aspects of the organization. A healthy culture is one wherein staff members feel cared for, seen, respected and valued.

Nurse leaders and culture

Nurse leaders — including CNOs, managers, supervisors, charge nurses and others — are responsible for setting the tone of a workplace. Nurse leaders can lead by example through deeds, words and the creation of a positive environment.

If a nurse leader turns a blind eye to bullying, harassment, intimidation or other aberrant behavior in the workplace, a clear message is sent to staff that the leader does not value his or her direct reports enough to directly confront the issue.

If nurses voice concerns that are never addressed, those nurses learn their concerns don't matter, and this can cause staff members to resent management, keep secrets and rely on passive-aggression and other negative behavior.

The assertive and confident nurse leader makes culture a priority, creating an atmosphere where openness, transparency and communication are the norm.

Buy-in is crucial

A thoughtful nurse leader establishes a workplace culture through his or her actions and words. A culture can also be codified, written down and shared with staff as a living document to which all can contribute.

If an organization lacks a clear mission, vision and values, such a leader can spearhead a movement to clarify a culture that reflects the desires and needs of every player. In fact, buy-in can more likely be achieved if staff input is sought in making the culture a concrete document and set of practices to live by.

Create culture

Once buy-in to organizational cultural goals is achieved with as many staff members as possible, the next crucial step is implementing practices that bring the culture to life.

For instance, open meetings for the airing of concerns are a way to engender trust and open communication among staff members. In terms of conflict, the creation of a clear process for the resolution of conflicts is also a tool for creating an environment where everyone feels safe.

Culture is community

A community is made up of many individuals, and those individuals must feel at home, accepted, seen and heard. Workplace culture is like a road map for the type of community a workplace wants to be.

A positive workplace culture sets the stage for improved productivity, collaboration, camaraderie and satisfaction of both staff and patients.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and a widely read freelance nurse writer. Keith is also the co-host of RNFM Radio, a popular Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.

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