Written by Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
Searching for a new job is both exciting and nerve wracking.
Whether you are a new nurse searching for your first job, or a seasoned nurse who's been wearing medical scrubs to work for years, company and unit culture are everything.
Many organizations will dazzle you with fancy mission statements, visions, and values.
It is your job to sift through the jargon and decide if they are a good fit.
Culture is more than words - culture is action.
Three Ideas to Try
Considering we spend, on average, a third of our lives in the workplace, a healthy environment is extremely important. Here are three steps you can take to determine if an organization has strong leadership, a positive work culture, and could be a good fit.
1. Interview your interviewers.
The hospital is interviewing you, right? Yes, but you also need to come prepared with a list of questions too. Being prepared with questions is a win-win. It shows the leadership team you are engaged and interested, and it gives you the opportunity to find out important information. Ask open ended questions, such as:
What are the biggest challenges you face in your unit? How are you working to address them?
How do you handle staffing shortages? Are nurses mandated to work overtime, and if so, how often does this happen?
What do you think are the biggest strengths of your unit?
How often do nurses in your unit skip lunch breaks? How does management address this sort of pattern?
What support do you provide nurses who wish to take the next step in their career? Do you offer preceptorship training, tuition reimbursement, research opportunities, or reimbursement for certification exams? Can you provide some examples of other opportunities or resources?
Can I wear my favorite ceil blue scrubs to work? (Just kidding ;)
See what kind of answers you get back. A nurse manager with strong interpersonal leadership skills will know the ins and outs of their team and be able to clearly answer these questions. They will demonstrate they care about their team and how they work to help the team succeed.
This is the kind of leadership you want, whether you are switching roles or starting out as a nurse for the first time. These leaders have strong emotional intelligence. A leader with strong emotional intelligence will have an engaged team because their leader listens, cares, and appreciates them. It’s important to remember you are interviewing the manager, unit, and organization to see if they will be a good fit for you too.
2. Ask to shadow on the unit.
Some hospitals encourage shadowing! The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) has a brief that lists six standards for healthy work environments. While shadowing, ask the nurses some of these questions to get a feel if these standards are being met:
How do you feel your team communicates with each other and a patient’s medical team?
Do you feel respected and heard when voicing patient or workplace concerns? If not, have any steps been taken to address this issue?
Do you feel the nurse-to-patient ratios are safe? What happens if you are short staffed or have high acuity patients?
What are ways team members recognize each other for going above and beyond, or helping one another?
What are your favorite and least favorite reasons to work here?
3. Finally, a third step you can take is old-fashioned internet sleuthing.
Start with the more obvious places like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Indeed. And, patient satisfaction scores may give you greater insight. There’s an established link between engaged employees and better patient care. If you’re not familiar with HCAHPS, you can compare patient satisfaction scores from various hospitals and healthcare organizations. It is publicly reported data and available to all. If the facility ranks well, it’s likely a good place to work.
As a nurse, you are in demand. You deserve to work in a healthy environment, with a leader who genuinely cares about their team. This type of leader takes the initiative to help everyone be at their best. They actively cultivate a positive work culture - beyond those fancy mission and vision statements. They do more than talk the talk, they walk the walk, and they do it with their team in mind.
Be empowered to work in an environment that cares, both for your own well being and for your patients. An empowered, engaged nurse feels confident doing all they can to provide high quality, compassionate care for their patients.
About the Author
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN is currently navigating graduate school and working on a Ph.D. in nursing, with an emphasis in Ethics. She is passionate about ethical leadership and organizational compassion. Outside of grad school, she is also a freelance writer, mom to four young kids, and can often be found exploring the trails in Colorado where her family calls home.