By Crystal Norris, R.N.
We all became nurses for different reasons. Different paths brought us all together. Sometimes with the day-to-day grind, we find morale faltering and motivation lacking. When teamwork has tanked, we may just need a tiny spark of inspiration and encouragement to turn things around.
The key to a successful team is collaboration. Lack of partnership equals frustration for all- nurses, doctors, patients, and families. Collaboration is one of the essential nursing responsibilities outlined by California's Nursing Practice Act. This concept is also a part of the American Nursing Credentialing Center's Exemplary Professional Practice requirement for organizations seeking Magnet status. So how do we get make it happen?
Look in-ward first - Figure out your own biases and things you are self-conscious about regarding your nursing practice. Be aware of your triggers and develop techniques to deal with them. Make sure you're not building a wall between your team and yourself.
Think of your unit as a safe place to talk - Don't dismiss, yell, or ridicule your teammates for opinions or questions - shaming them into silence. This openness comes more naturally for newer nurses compared to more seasoned nurses. Ways to improve this skill include active listening and constructive responding to others - even if you feel the answer is obvious.
Be gentle when dealing with conflict - Conflict is the most substantial barrier to effective collaboration and teamwork. The best defense for conflict is to improve communication. Use clear, concise communication during conflict, so no one is confused or misunderstood. Be honest and don’t elaborate situations. Resolve grievances respectfully verses letting them fester into grudges.
Be a leader - You are a nurse, a leader, and the hub of patient care. Expertise, guidance, and support are traits that you deliver to your patients. You are a role model for all on your team. Ask for help when needed, help your co-workers solve problems, and be generous with praise.
Be people versus task oriented - Make a connection with your co-workers and patients. Focus on the person you are interacting with, instead of allowing your mind to drift on another task you need to do next.
Respect your co-workers - Avoid gossip. Gossip is a plague for any nursing unit. When you participate or spread gossip, you undermine trust developed within a team. Don't engage. Don't listen. Don't spread gossip. Just don't go there.
Help when and where you can - Nursing is a team sport. Be the nurse that helps everyone, regardless of your credentials. Nothing, when it comes to basic nursing care, "isn't your job." If you see that someone is overwhelmed, support them. Helping out shows co-workers that they can depend on you.
Be a mentor for new nurses - New nurses are scared and unsure of themselves. We have all been there. If you see a new nurse struggling, offer your assistance. We've all heard the nursing cliché that "nurses eat their young." This mentality does nothing for the unit. We need to guide these new nurses with compassion and understanding. We are training them to become a vital, functioning part of the team.
Be ready for change of shift report - Don't leave things you can do for patients for the next nurse. Make sure that no basic patient needs are left unattended - catheters are emptied, IV fluids changed, spare bed linens for bed changes available, etc. Unless there's an emergency at shift change, have your ducks in a row for the next nurse.
Teamwork doesn't happen overnight. It takes continuous practice, commitment, and promotion on the unit to take hold. The great thing is that teamwork can also be contagious. Once everyone develops trust in you and each other, the team will see the benefits and improved morale of the unit.
Crystal Lynn Woods is a Registered Nurse, specializing in Labor & Delivery for the past 3 years. Her favorite part of her profession is being able to help women to find their strength bringing new life into the world. Crystal is a wife and mother to her sweet daughter Ruby. In her free time she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with family.