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The Nurse Who Plays Well With Others

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

When a nurse gets a performance review from his or her manager, playing well with others may not be high on the priority list, but it should be.

In the days of elementary school report cards, playing well with others can be a hallmark of being a good student. The well-behaved school-age kid shares crayons, waits patiently in line to use the water fountain, and cooperates at the pencil sharpener. Playing well with others is an important life skill to be learned.

When nurses don't play well with others, all hell can break loose on a unit or within an agency. When a home health nurse grabs the last package of 4x4's but chooses not to inform the manager that they now need to be ordered, he isn't playing well with others. When an ICU nurse turns her back on a new nurse who asks for help and tells her to "figure it out on her own," she isn't being collaborative.

A nurse manager needs to identify who does and doesn't play nice in the sandbox, then act accordingly.

Model what's expected

If a nurse manager wants to see open communication, transparency and deep listening among her step-down unit nursing staff, she needs to model those qualities and practices herself. If the nursing supervisor in a long-term care facility wants the LPNs and CNAs to collaborate and cooperate in order to get treatments done and medications administered, he needs to demonstrate to the staff what that should look like.

Some nurses may have mostly witnessed backbiting and bullying during their careers; some may have no training in emotional intelligence, mindful communication or nonverbal communication skills. Thus, it's up to a thoughtful and innovative nurse leader to make these central to the unit, floor or agency where the nurses practice their professional calling.

Discipline counts

A nursing leader who is afraid to discipline staff members who violate behavioral workplace norms is a weak manager, indeed. If one nurse gets away with bullying and rudeness, the message is sent to other members of the nursing and non-nursing staff that aberrant behavior will be tolerated, or at least ignored.

Many nurse managers and nursing leaders turn a blind eye to bullying because they have no idea of how to approach or eradicate it. Their silence is complicity, and nurse morale, team cohesion and patient care will consequently suffer.

Nurses who violate cultural norms of the workplace need discipline, and that discipline needs teeth. A bully should be removed from the premises entirely, and an uncooperative nurse who goes out of her way to be unkind toward her colleagues must be retrained or let go.

The sandbox of the workplace

Some nurses say their workplaces feel like seventh grade: fraught with teasing, social cliques, gossip, rumors and a feeling of every nurse for himself or herself.

It doesn't need to be this way; the land of nursing doesn't need to be lawless. Many popular books have talked about the notion of how everything you really need to know you learned in kindergarten; this may actually be true.

In the nursing sandbox, cooperation and kindness are central to nurse satisfaction and a healthy workplace culture. When led by an inspired and inspiring nurse leader, nurses understand that communication is key, and that their leader will consistently model the behaviors that are expected. If a leader fails to do this, work becomes a much unhappier place.

Inspired nursing leadership exemplifies a sandbox where cooperation holds sway, kind voices prevail, sharing is expected, and conflict is resolved peacefully.

The sandbox of the nursing workplace can be an utter mess, an inspiring paradise of collaboration or something in between. The nurse leader sets the tone and uses the powers of leadership and persuasion to create the environment that will fulfill the ultimate mission of optimal patient care and effective, functional, collaborative nursing.

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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