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How to Promote a Healthy Work Culture in the Medical Field


Nurses make jokes as a way to build a positive work culture

Nobody likes a bad work environment, no matter what field they work in. Programmers don’t like a hostile workplace, neither do politicians, teachers, architects, or lumberjacks. But a toxic work environment in the medical field can be especially uncomfortable — and not just for the people who work there.

As nurses, doctors, and therapists, caregivers are supposed to heal and give comfort to people who are sick, injured, or otherwise unwell. Medical professionals are dealing with and caring for people who may be having the worst time of their lives, and that patient-oriented aspect makes healthcare uniquely vulnerable to consequences of a bad work environment. Healthcare professionals who aren’t satisfied with their work environment, who dread coming to work and only show up to get a paycheck, often don’t deliver the care their patients expect — and need.

While much of the foundation of a healthy work culture comes from management, it grows from the bottom up. Even as a new or less experienced nurse or other medical professional, there are things you can do to contribute to a great work culture. Starting good habits early means you’ll keep them your whole career — including when you might one day find yourself in a management position.

Know how to take (and give) feedback

Medical professionals are only human. Over the course of your medical career, you will see people make mistakes — and you will make them yourself. But don’t worry; most of the time they’ll be minor things that are fixable, and you’ll learn from them.

It’s important to not take feedback and criticism personally. The person telling you that you did something wrong isn’t saying that because they dislike you; they’re telling you because they want you to fix the mistake and work on improving yourself as a medical professional.

If you’re on the other end of the criticism, it’s important to do so respectfully and constructively. Try to present your feedback in a positive way that makes your coworker feel like they’re being helped to improve, not scolded. A workplace where people are regularly made to feel ashamed is a workplace where people start hiding mistakes. And that’s a problem.

Along similar lines, be honest. This means owning up to mistakes if someone doesn’t know who the culprit may be, and not blaming other people when something goes wrong. A medical team is just that, a team. Everyone needs to be able to trust everyone else.

Related Resource: 3 Things You Never Stop Learning as a Nurse

Consider different perspectives

Just because there’s a way you’ve always done things doesn’t mean there’s not another way to do them. When a coworker gives their perspective or opinion, make them feel like they’re being respected and listened to.

This doesn’t mean you should automatically change your mind whenever someone tells you something, of course! There may be a very valid reason why you’re currently doing something your way and not theirs. Even in that case, however, it’s good form to explain your reasoning so your coworker feels their input was taken seriously and considered.

Remember, safety first

It’s good to be considered honest and respectful, but you need to be reliable, too. In the medical field, any failure when it comes to safety can not only endanger the health and even the lives of your patients, but also your coworkers as well.

Prioritize safety at all times, no matter what you’re doing. If you see a coworker cutting corners, consider talking to them about it in private afterward. (But remember the first point above when you do so!) Make this a personal habit, and it will be a positive influence on any team you’re a member of.

Related Resource: Nurses, Here’s How to Avoid Workplace Injuries

Don’t forget to have fun

“Fun” can feel like a dirty word in a medical environment, and with good reason. You’re dealing with important, critical matters that sometimes concern life and death, so why should that be fun?

We’re certainly not saying you should prioritize jokes over doing your job, or even that you need to be best buds with your coworkers when you’re not on the clock. But given how high stress your job can be, it’s critical you find time to take a breather.

Find some low-impact, good-natured jokes you and your coworkers can enjoy. A little laugh can go a long way! Put a silly wig on a model skeleton. If it doesn’t get in the way of your real work, and it doesn’t make anyone feel put down or bullied, levity in the medical workplace is a great thing. After all, your patients will feel more at ease when they see their nurse with a smile on their face, right? Laughter may not actually be the best medicine, but it doesn’t hurt.

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