The staff that orders take out together…

Gains 15 pounds together 

Seriously, a post about staff dynamics has been brewing for years. I keep meaning to write it, but I’ve put it off for more important things. Like food. 

What I’m about to say applies to every place I’ve worked so far. This isn’t me singling anyone out. When I say I wanted to write this forever ago, I mean it. 

I’ve worked in a number of hospitals and environments throughout my career. I’ve worked with people who will always ask if you need help and jump in without much prompting, and I’ve worked with people who will do as little work as they possibly can in a 8-12 hour shift. Both nurses can be part of the same team and that’s why we get excited when we work with a certain crew. Why? Because a good crew can make even the busiest, most trying shift do-able. 

To me, good staff dynamics can make or break a floor. 

My first year out? I was friendly with my coworkers but there were times I definitely felt alone during a shift and didn’t always have the help I needed. The year I went to OB was the defining year(s) as most people I worked with I could count on to jump in. They’d help, they treated me like a colleague, it felt like a family. There were hard working older nurses who taught the younger ones and younger nurses who felt respected and backed up. Everyone grew collectively. That set up, of people working together for the success of the floor/shift, shaped me. I am a nurse who offers to help because it breeds an attitude of collegiality in coworkers. Even if we’re sinking, we will band together to get to 7:30am come hell or high water. 

When that attitude is missing, the floor becomes a high stress zone. People overwhelmed, unable/unwilling to help each other. Bad attitudes become almost cancerous and the level of unnecessary drama and headache multiplies. It’s nurses fighting each other when the census is crazy or you’re short instead of banding together. It’s ugliness and I keep telling you God don’t like ugliness. 

I loathe the thought of treating the hospital like a business, but there is something to be said for using the same corporate personality tests to figure out how people can work better together. Who is a take charge doer? Who needs to be paired with the right secondary nurse because they work better together? Who shuts down when they are overwhelmed, turning toward laziness instead of helpfulness? 

Team building isn’t always possible, but management that comes to the nurse and praises them for a job well done is important. It goes beyond gift cards into face-to-face meetings to evaluate and individually build up your staff. Staff that feels appreciated by their bosses work harder. Stop ignoring the grumbling and get to the root of their complaints. 

It’s staff that sees individual personalities and offers help anyway. It’s being together outside of work to better understand why people behave how they do AT work. It’s building a family atmosphere because as much as you may not like it, this is your work family and it can be as miserable as your regular family if you’re not careful. 

I challenge managers and staff alike to examine their work dynamic. What kind of people are working on your floor? Can they be guided toward working better together and how can I as a manager facilitate that? Staff can ask if they are part of the chaos that tends to elevate the level of drama? Are you really helping each other survive a shift or are you refusing to pitch in and be a solution?

A quick fix is better staffing, upper management that acknowledges hard work, doctors that stop acting like entitled prima-Madonnas, and reasonable patient loads. Since that isn’t always possible, look at yourself and see what you can change to at least alter the tone of the floor. Is it switching assignments around or passing meds for the busy coworker? Do that. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to help before you’re even asked. 

Having grown up with a good work family, it is possible. Oh, and keep verbalizing what you need to be successful. Lobby on your behalf even if no one listens. Maybe the point will come when they do and whispering among yourselves isn’t going to do the trick. 

Did I even offer any solutions here? Probably not. But sometimes self examination can go a long way to personal satisfaction. So, if you think I’m part of the problem, gently tell me so I can fix my behavior. 

Staff that plays (orders take out) together, stays together. 

Travel on, road warriors. 


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