When I started in my professional nursing career, it was a welcoming experience. Over the past 16 years, I have been fortunate that my coworkers and colleagues in other specialties all work together toward our one common goal – improving the health and care of our patients. Vollers, Hill, Roberts, Dambaugh & Brenner (2009) stress the importance that, “A healthy work environment and a high-functioning nurse advancement system are inherently complementary. Both contribute to the delivery of optimal patient care by nurses.” Let’s look at the nursing work environment and strategies to improve it and make it the best it can be.
There is an ongoing push to make improvements in the work environment for nurses and health care professionals. Munro and Hope (2020) recommend that we need to “…individually and collectively respect and take care of all of our coworkers.” I could not agree more! I think we all want to work in this type of environment. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN, 2016) identifies six standards that are the foundation of healthy work environments: skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision-making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership.
Let’s examine these standards in more detail to see how they can improve our work environment (AACN, 2016).
- Skilled Communication – Be as proficient in communication skills as you are in clinical skills.
- True Collaboration – Be relentless in pursuing and fostering true collaboration.
- Effective Decision Making – Be committed partners in making policy, directing and evaluating clinical care, and leading organizational operations.
- Appropriate Staffing – Staffing must ensure the effective match between patient needs and nurse competencies.
- Meaningful Recognition – Be recognized and recognize others for the value each brings to the work of the organization.
- Authentic Leadership – Fully embrace the imperative of a healthy work environment, authentically live it and engage others in its achievement.
Did you identify some of these standards already present in your work environment, or did you find yourself wishing these were at your place of employment? Implementing such strategies in our own work environment can assist in reducing staff turnover, creating higher job satisfaction, and improved patient outcomes.
Do you feel there is more that could be done to improve the environment where you work? Remember that changes can start with just one person and you
can be that person! Whether you work in-patient or out-patient, there are many things you can do to implement change.
- First, take a good look at your work environment.
- Take a step back and objectively consider what is working well and what could be improved upon to make your work environment better. Make a list of these ideas.
- Discuss your thoughts with your coworkers to see what their insight into this is as well. You could be overlooking something that you are not aware of or your coworkers could have another great idea to make things even better.
- Take all of these ideas to your manager and discuss thoughts, findings, and suggestions for improvement; depending on the scope of your conversation, think about whether a private setting or an upcoming staff unit council meeting is most appropriate for this initial conversation.
- Collaboratively, you and your team can develop ways to implement the needed changes to make your work environment even better!
There will always be more work that needs to be done to improve the nursing work environment. But, go forward with the knowledge that it is
possible to make improvements to your work environment one step at a time. Start small and identify specific targets for improvement. Work collaboratively with your coworkers and manager to develop and implement your plans for change. Remember, it just takes one
person to make a positive impact and change things for the better. Go forth to be that person and make your work environment the best it can be for you, your coworkers and ultimately your patients!