Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nurses and Relationships: Cooperation is Key!

Relationships between nurses are impacted by multiple factors, including stress, workloads, personalities, as well as the "culture" of the institution where those nurses are employed. What can nurses do to enhance their relationships at work, especially when it comes to cooperation?

First, we need to agree that relationships at work matter. It's often said that it's possible to spend more time with your coworkers than with your own spouse or family, and that can sometimes actually be the case. While I'm not a big proponent of work-based friendships that entail a great deal of socializing outside of work (stay tuned for another post on that thorny subject), I feel that your relationships with your colleagues are paramount in terms of your satisfaction in your chosen career path.

That said, learning to work in a manner that is cooperative, mutually beneficial and positive for all concerned is absolutely key to career satisfaction, health, and even patient outcomes.

The Spirit of Cooperation

One way that nurses can really nurture their relationships with one another is to engage in the spirit of cooperation, support and mutual positive regard. We all know how hard our jobs can be, and many of us are familiar with the awful feeling when bad vibes are directed our way by a fellow nurse--or even a group of nurses.

The nursing profession appears to be overrun with stories of bullying (also known as horizontal or lateral violence), intimidation, the "eating of our young", and back-biting that can undermine patient care. This creates a culture of negativity, stress and chronic unhappiness that can easily lead to burnout.

On RN.FM Radio, we talk frequently about cooperation and collaboration. While we're often engaged in conversations related to nurse entrepreneurship on the show, the paradigm of expanded collaboration and cooperation also relates to nurses everywhere, even those at the bedside.

What Can You Do?

In any facility where there are significant numbers of patients and clinicians, cooperation among those clinicians is essential for manifesting the outcomes that we all want for our patients. It is also essential for us to feel happy and healthy and satisfied at work.

That cooperation between clinicians can take many forms, including but not limited to:
  • Sharing information and knowledge freely
  • Offering a hand when a coworker seems stressed
  • Welcoming and nurturing novice nurses as they begin their careers
  • Smiling 
  • Making yourself available to others
  • Self-care (since care of the self naturally leads to enhanced care for others)
  • Gently helping others to also care for themselves
  • Following the rules so that the playing field is level
  • Nurturing positive relationships with clinicians from other disciplines
  • Standing up to bullies and not tolerating intimidation of yourself or others
  • Not colluding with coworkers who gossip
This list is, of course, incomplete, and I'm interested to see if readers would like to add ways in which they nurture cooperation and collaboration at work.

We All Need Each Other

Let's face it, we all need each other. Even that relatively novice nurse who seeks so much support and advice from her coworkers may some day be the nurse who cares for your father, mother, uncle, sister--or even you. She can only become the best nurse she can be if her coworkers treat her with respect and support her in the Herculean effort of growing into her new role as a nurse.

I feel that cooperation is an intrinsic human trait that is sometimes damaged and undermined by cultures that do not readily value its importance. Those of us employed in workplaces where cooperation is sorely needed can do our part by embodying the spirit of cooperation, living by example, and demonstrating to others what cooperation and collaboration can really accomplish.

How do you embody the spirit of cooperation? Is it valued where you work? If not, how can you bring that spirit to life?

Cooperation and collaboration are not an end in and of themselves, but they are certainly a means to many extremely valuable outcomes.

Bring cooperation and collaboration to the table, and watch how satisfaction, happiness and well-being grow and expand for everyone who embraces the energy and spirit of these most important human traits.


This blog post was written to be included in the next edition of the new Scrubs Magazine Nursing Blog Carnival, which will be hosted by various nurse bloggers and published on a regular basis.

Thanks to Scrubs and Brittney Wilson, The Nerdy Nurse, for including me. 

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