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Investing in the Future: Positive Workplace Culture in Healthcare

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

The healthcare workplace environment has a deep impact on staff experience, including satisfaction, productivity and institutional loyalty. Workplace culture is a crucial aspect of the workplace environment, although it is less obvious than physical aspects such as cleanliness, air quality, safety concerns, ergonomics and layout.
Workplace culture has meaning

Staff members' reaction to their work environment hinges a great deal on culture. Savvy, forward thinking nursing and healthcare leaders understand that creating a positive, supportive culture is paramount, but it can be an uphill battle to get buy-in from healthcare executives and leaders focused solely on profit margins.

Patient satisfaction is indeed a powerful driver of 21st-century healthcare. Staff satisfaction should admittedly receive equal attention, but it sadly receives short shrift in many quarters.

While some leaders pay lip service to Nurses Week and other fleeting moments of staff recognition, healthcare workplace culture hinges more importantly on the deeper levels of culture that many leaders ignore, much to the detriment of the teams for which they bear responsibility.

A culture of compassion

Bullying, harassment, intimidation and discrimination are rampant enough in healthcare to necessitate an industry of consultants who assist organizations in ridding themselves of such scourges of human behavior. Bullying occurs between nurses (also known as lateral or horizontal violence), but such activity is not limited to nurses, and it continues to undermine institutions worldwide.

A positive culture doesn't just mean there are coffee and snacks in the break room. Little touches have meaning, of course, but a truly exemplary workplace culture goes far beyond material offerings.

Manifesting a positive workplace culture entails cultivating a compassionate, kind atmosphere where respect and skillful communication are encouraged and institutionally modeled. In such a culture, bullying and intimidation simply cannot exist because such aberrant behavior is neither condoned nor tolerated.

When leadership actively models zero tolerance for behavior that undermines morale and team cohesion, team members are empowered to assist in the process of rooting out negative behavior and creating an environment where staff can individually and collectively thrive.

Down payments on the future

Cultivating positive workplace culture is a meaningful pursuit that more nursing and medical leaders would be prudent to explore.

Patient satisfaction cannot happen in a vacuum, and everyone suffers when staff members are unhappy and disconnected from the underlying values and mission of the organization. The financial bottom line benefits when staff members feel valued and supported, and when the organization puts forth energy to cultivate a positive workplace culture.

Organizational culture is multifaceted and built over time:

  • How are meetings run?
  • How are decisions made and communicated?
  • How is appreciation demonstrated?
  • How are conflicts assessed and resolved?
  • What level of organizational transparency is practiced?
  • II the organization's mission statement a living document?

Building organizational culture is an ongoing process, and it exists and develops on a continuum. Down payments on workplace culture pay myriad long- and short-term dividends.

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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