In an evolving healthcare landscape, many hospitals and health systems have a diverse nursing staff of tenured employees, contractors, specialists, and more. While this can be a recipe for a dynamic and collaborative environment, it also has the potential to become precarious without proper management.
Disorganization and lack of communication ultimately trickle down to patients. In fact, a Joint Commission study found that 80% of serious medical errors result from miscommunication during nursing handoff.
Hospital and departmental leadership must ensure everyone works together to care for patients effectively and efficiently. This requires breaking down any barriers and engaging staff to build strong working relationships in the following forms of engagement.
A Healthy Work Culture
With the continued staffing shortages in healthcare, organizational culture is ever more critical for maintaining morale among existing staff.
For one, nursing departments should strive to create balanced schedules and assignments that work for each employee and even out workloads as much as possible. Departmental leaders should be transparent about organizing so there is no perception of inequality. If everyone feels they are pulling the same weight, they will work together better.
However, in departments that rely heavily on contract and travel workers, there can be friction for similar reasons, including doubt about contractors’ workloads, level of commitment, and their skills and qualifications. This is where leaders must emphasize clarifying any misconceptions and the benefits they provide beyond crucial coverage for short staffing, such as adaptability, diverse perspectives, and specialized knowledge.
Shared governance is also becoming a standard practice in many healthcare organizations to empower nurses and foster collaboration. It is a working model where nurses can join councils, allowing them to be involved in decision-making for their departments and patients.
Clear Roles and Responsibilities
There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about assignments and responsibilities among everyone involved in patient care, from RNs to LPNs and UAPs. Along with their daily schedules, consider writing down each employee’s responsibilities in a shared document that everyone can access and reference. This ensures each employee knows exactly what their tasks are and that there is no gap in patient care coverage.
However, it’s also essential to leave room for spontaneous teamwork. For instance, a nurse has a free moment and responds to a patient not in their assigned block to help out another nurse with their hands full. While this isn’t a requirement or expectation, it should not be frowned upon.
Established Onboarding and Training Processes
Onboarding and training can be essential for setting the tone – what the standard operating procedures are, what the day-to-day job will look like, and the organization’s culture. If the goal is to have a cohesive team, these processes should be standardized for all types of staff, whether direct hire or contract worker.
In addition, all staff should have the same continuing education and growth opportunities, promoting a culture of equality and professional development and ensuring that every team member has the resources and support necessary to excel in their roles.
Transparent Communication Among Nursing Staff
In a hospital or clinical environment, losing track of so many moving parts is easy. Nursing teams need multiple modes of communication to ensure they are organized and on the same page.
This includes having proper tools to communicate, especially around patient care. Traditional chart notes and whiteboards in rooms are not going anywhere. Still, many organizations are also integrating newer technologies, such as HIPAA-compliant messaging platforms, for instant communication between staff members. This is especially helpful during emergencies to speed up response time to critical patients.
Good teamwork also means holding one another accountable, creating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges and concerns, and collaboratively working to overcome them.
However, there should be an established feedback process for issues that need further addressing. For example, a staff member is consistently underperforming or making mistakes, affecting others – or worse, patients. Staff should know who to escalate these issues to, whether it is department leadership or HR, and how so that they can address and resolve the issue immediately.
Regular Team and Staff Meetings
Teams and departments should be meeting regularly to share important information and updates, as well as coordinate and plan, ensuring alignment of goals and objectives for the team and the organization. Meetings can also provide a forum for problem-solving, decision-making, and feedback, allowing employees to voice their opinions, share ideas, and actively participate in discussions. Additionally, meetings are an opportunity for recognizing and acknowledging individual and team accomplishments.
All these forms of engagement instill a sense of duty and shared ownership, which are fundamental components of a positive workplace culture and effective teamwork. Pair this with solid operational organization and communication to create an unstoppable nursing team that puts patient care at the forefront.