In healthcare, the tight-knit world of nursing culture is vital

For those working in the nursing field, trusting the individuals they work with is crucial to both personal and unit success.

Staff nurse updating medical notes, circa 2008. (Image via Wikipedia entry on nursing)

BOISE, Idaho, October 28, 2016 — A nursing unit can be defined as an area or locale in either a hospital or other healthcare facility where patients having similar needs are located, the better to facilitate care by professionals trained in the care of such patients.

In any given nursing unit, the culture can vary considerably based on any number of variables, including your nursing specialty, the setting in which you are working, the hours of your shift or shifts and your and your colleagues’ the level of experience. However, whether yours is a fast paced environment or more routine-based, whether your patients are always different or frequently stay the same, whether your schedule is usually stable or is frequently subject to change, nursing is always about patient care.

Working in an environment where you regularly experience great loss and great success tends to bring people together. In an environment where nurses are tired, hungry, constantly on their feet, or overworked, their fellow nurses are at times precisely the at-work support system they need in order to keep going. By establishing mutual trust, knowing the institutional and personal barriers, relating well to each other and treating each other with respect, a nursing culture is a tight-knit world of professionals that count on one another.

Established Trust

Establishing trust among an institution’s employees, including relationships with co-workers is important in most careers. For those working in the nursing field, trusting the individuals they work with is crucial to both personal and unit success.

Not every decision a nurse makes involves life and death, but such situations do arise. Many decisions that will indeed affect a patient’s health or wellbeing, however, so nurses need to trust the knowledge and abilities of their colleagues. Throughout the spectrum of available nursing licenses and titles, there are numerous specialities and areas of expertise. But despite their differences, they all have patient care in common.

When nurses working together can trust each other, their work is more accomplished and the patients are ultimately the ones that benefit. Nursing culture tends to be tight-knit because nurses in a given culture have established trust in sensitive situations in which the patient has more to lose than the individual nurse or nurses do. When trust is established, each member of the team is motivated to help when needed, to share emotions and social occasions, and to learn from his or her colleagues.

Identifying Barriers

Any close relationship relies on effective communication. The culture of nursing is no different. Nurses become close through identifying barriers within their work environment. Nurses don’t walk into nursing units as a close group of coworkers, however. It’s a process.

Leadership is important for a unit, particularly when integrating new nurses with veterans of the team and when articulating what is expected of everyone. Identifying issues that arise among nurses will help them to work together more closely and co-operatively.

Nursing culture is on the top list of priorities for those in management and leadership roles. If something is off in a unit, it’s the manager’s job to identify and remedy the issue, enabling the unit’s nurses to do their jobs better and enjoy them more. The kinds of barriers that arise may involve trust, communication, issues with other medical staff members, lack of personal or unit confidence, or lack of respect for colleagues or management. Whatever the issue, however, identifying it is the first step towards fixing the problem. For that reason, nursing units everywhere put great importance on this key aspect of teamwork.

The Ability to Relate

Nurses are able to get close with their fellow nurses because they can relate to each other. This is why they create relationships unlike those they make with family members, friends, or other medical professionals.

Despite working in the same type of atmosphere throughout their careers, some aspects of the job still get to nursing professionals. Some patients leave an indelible mark in a unit, and it’s hard to explain the emotions that go along with losses or successes associated with these patients. One’s fellow nurses know how this works and share these experiences, and the high emotions involved tend to connect nursing colleagues in a profound way that many others can never truly experience.

However, nursing isn’t just about the hard times. It’s also the great times. Nursing culture is all about making jokes that others might not get and understanding how frustrating patients can sometimes be. But it can also involve sharing valid complaints about the decisions that a unit’s doctors can make. Such professional matters are things that best friends, parents, partners, and children can’t often relate to, or at least not in the same way that other nurses can. This is a major factor that explains why nurses tend to form such an important and lasting bond with their colleagues.

The Importance of Respect

It’s true that workers in other fields can also grow close with their coworkers. As adults it’s often one of the bestways to make new friends, so there’s no denying that it’s not only the nursing world that encourages such a tight-knit culture.

What makes the nursing world different, however, is the highly personal medical environment in which they carry out their day to day tasks. With stakes high and health of patients in mind, tensions in a unit can run high. In order to have a cohesive nursing unit, it’s important to build the unit’s culture into something considerably sturdier than the average coworker relationships in other fields. To accomplish this, nurses quickly learn to respect each other’s abilities.

Younger nurses generally respect their seasoned co-workers and what they can learn from them. Seasoned nurses, in turn, respect new nurses in the unit, remembering themselves how intimidating a new nursing unit can be for a recently-arrived colleague. A mutual display of respect is the key to a successful unit in the nursing world, and helps create a positive nursing culture.

Not all nursing careers are high stress and high stakes, however. Almost 50 percent of nurse practitioners  work in family health, which can mean providing routine medical procedures in clinics or similar settings. This doesn’t mean that the culture in such institutions is any less tight-knit. It simply means that the culture is different. Nurses in these types of settings still need to trust one another and treat each other with respect in order to achieve the same type of friendly and smoothly functional culture as in any other nursing situation.

Working in the medical field is a job unlike any other. Nurses are often on the front lines when it comes to patient relations and treatment, but it’s not all tragedy, blood, and computer codes every day on the job. If you walk onto a nurse’s floor you might see a group of nurses laughing together, you may see a nurse and a patient making fun of each other, or you may see a nurse and a doctor having a cup of coffee. Nurses do this often difficult work because they love it, so not every day is involves a batttle. Some days are hard, some are great, some are exhausting, and some are boring. But through it all, nurses count on each other and routinely create a culture of trust, respect, commonality and communication.

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