Written by Juli Curtis BSN, RN
Think back to a time when work was fun. It might have been a long time ago, but now is the time to take on this challenge.
In the last few years, nurses have been called to unprecedented action in the fight against Covid-19. I doubt our profession will ever be the same. The pandemic has been incredibly difficult and the mental, physical, and emotional toll is still raw. And now, just as the coronavirus crisis seems to be waning, monkeypox has arrived. I suspect our new normal will include ongoing emerging infections challenging nurses worldwide.
As the Covid-19 pandemic begins to wind down, let's take a breath and renew our love and commitment to our profession by rebuilding our teams.
We are nurses - strong, resilient, creative, and dare I say, fun!
Why Team Building Matters
Team building is the process that enables a group of people to work well together. Strong nursing teams bolster the organization’s success by improving nurse retention and increasing patient satisfaction. Work is more fun when you're part of a strong team.
According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management research report, “positive relationships with co-workers can foster a sense of loyalty, camaraderie, and moral support and engagement among staff.”
Have you ever looked at the schedule and been elated to see who is working your shift? Raise your hand if you believe nurses have a bit of a twisted sense of humor! Weirdly, nurses can find something funny out of something others find disgusting. It's the superpower that bonds us together and brings some lightness into the job that only other nurses understand.
Good Patient Outcomes
Teamwork is critical for excellent patient outcomes. According to Spring Arbor University, “a lack of teamwork can have dire consequences in healthcare, and may lead to medical errors, near misses and never events due to poor coordination and communication between team members.”
It is dangerous to do this work in isolation. When team members back each other up and collaborate, they can achieve more with fewer errors. When everyone works together, patients win and nurses more fully enjoy the work.
When I worked critical care, the “saves” and good catches brought enjoyment to everyone on the team. “Ringing the bell” in cancer care yields rounds of applause and high fives and even supporting a peaceful and dignified death creates a sense of satisfaction to all who help.
What Do Effective Teams Look Like?
In theory, nurses have the potential to be amazing team members because they are typically kind, helpful, supportive, and cooperative. Unfortunately, this is a real paradox in nursing. We all know that nurses can be very unkind to each other and this behavior is not reserved for floats or agency nurses. Folks, it's time for a change.
Great team members respect each other's opinions and are not defensive. They remain professional and value honest communication. In an effective team, nurses learn from mistakes and then let them go, understanding that no one is perfect.
American Nurse explains, “a teamwork environment promotes an atmosphere that fosters work friendships and loyalty.” I couldn't agree more.
Nurses understand each other and have true empathy for working long hours under stressful conditions. This shared experience and understanding can strengthen a friendship bond. I have met some of my dearest friends at work and we have remained friends long after we moved on from those jobs. Some of the ways that nurses can connect include sharing a sense of humor, venting about kids, and cheering each others’ successes.
Get Creative! Here are some Ideas:
Welcoming New Nurses
Make it fun! Welcome newbies to the team with open arms. Decorate a locker and introduce them to the team with a photo and poster with some basic information about them. Act inclusively while at work and invite them to outside activities such as cocktails after work or painting parties. Remember your agency nurses too!
Look Forward to Lunch
Most nurses get excited about food, especially something easy to grab and go. Organize a themed lunch to increase team morale. How about a meatball bar with marinara, chimichurri, or curry dipping sauces? You can’t go wrong with tacos or hotdogs and all the toppings. A bag of frozen fruit, a few bananas, yogurt, and a blender makes quick smoothies for all! It doesn't have to be fancy to be fun.
Get Together Outside of Work
Encourage the crew to get together outside of work. Staffing a first aid tent, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or getting a team together for a charity walk are events that connect people. Consider including people from other departments to share the fun.
Liven Up the Place
Drab and boring surroundings drag everyone down. Bring that tired old bulletin board back to life! Create weekly trivia questions or a “diagnose this patient” game. Funny pictures, jokes, or quotes will bring smiles and laughter.
There's no question that strong teams are necessary for nurses’ happiness and good patient outcomes. Nurses are resourceful and creative! Let's rebuild our teams, take excellent care of our patients, and have some fun at work again. It’s a win-win for everyone.
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About the Author:
Juli Curtis BSN, RN is a health and wellness writer and the owner of Write Health Right Now, LLC. She has been a nurse for over 30 years in a wide range of settings from critical care to insurance. In her free time, she is an avid nonfiction reader and loves to cook. She lives in Arkansas with her two boxers, Rizzo and Manny.
(2019, July 18) Top Nursing Team Building Strategies. Spring Arbor University
Meliniotis. C. (2020, October 23) The Rewards of Teamwork and Productive Leadership in Healthcare Today. American Nurse.