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5 Tips for Better Teamwork on the Floor

April 10, 2015

If you want to improve your job satisfaction and overall patient care, one of the most important things to focus on is teamwork.

You may never be best friends with everyone you work with, but you all have a collective job to get done. You may have to step beyond your role at times to help a colleague or ask for assistance yourself. During those (almost inevitable) times when you feel you're giving more than you’re getting, try to be light-hearted about it—unless the issue could endanger staff or a patient.

On the best teams, you feel supported and provide support when needed, with a sense of pride and common purpose rather than "every man or woman for themselves." Working toward a team environment is good for you, in more ways than one, as teamwork studies published in many respected nursing journals attest. 

Travel nurses have special challenges since they’re on new teams more often than most nursing staff. In addition, skilled and adventurous travel nurses are often called in when there is a shortage, so he or she is instantly part of a new and busy environment. A good charge nurse can (or would) make things easier for the whole group by providing organization and fostering a sense of teamwork. Of course, not all of them excel at this—and on busy days the best intentions may fall by the wayside. So what can you do?

Use these "five senses" to help create a cooperative team atmosphere around you:

  1. Sense of purpose: Many nurses agree that when personalities collide or you feel disrespected, try to remember why you got into nursing. Sounds corny, but take a moment to be noble and think about your greater purpose. This can be calming if you are upset or overwhelmed.

  2. Sense of pride: Be the bigger nurse and let perceived unfairness or slights roll off your back. Suck it up if you can, especially if you’re not going to be in your assignment much longer.

  3. Sense of responsibility: Go to management. If your situation is dire and patients are in danger, for example, do what you must. That should be what the charge nurse or other management are there for. If you don’t get any action, contact your agency for possible reassignment. You won’t get negative feedback if the situation is truly dire.

  4. Sense of respect: Others deserve respect as human beings, and as people trying to accomplish a difficult job. Try to find something the other team member does well, and refer to it when you ask for their help. Make your approach positive and you’re more likely to get a good response and receive help when it’s needed. You can also try thinking of the unhelpful or toxic co-worker as a relative you’re stuck with and use the same thoughts/strategies to deal with it. Let it roll off your back or secretly roll your eyes, accepting it like a force of nature. "There goes Aunt Patty again..."

  5. Sense of humor: Nursing can get very serious and very complex, very fast. With the added challenge of new personalities (on staff and as patients) to deal with daily, your days t_ypically won’t be smooth_, so try to take small slights or unevenly divided work as lightly as possible. Take the long view and don’t sweat the small stuff.

On rough days, remember that building your own skills in conflict resolution and team building will make your work life more rewarding and less stressful--and it can end up making you management material. The above tips can help you cope and can inspire a more cooperative attitude in those you work with. The tips can even make you someone that everyone else loves working with, which doesn't hurt. 

In fact, you can help another nurse out right now: share your strategies for fostering teamwork at your clinic or nursing unit here. Learn more about travel nursing opportunities.

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