The other day, I was serving as the babysitter at church nursery. As a former NICU nurse for many years, this gives me great joy, for so many reasons.
First, I do love babies. I love taking care of babies. I like their warmth, their smiles, their laughs. I like feeding them, walking around with them, showing them the sights, singing to them, dancing with them, rocking them to sleep in the rocking chair.
It’s less of a joy to try to calm the colicky child, or change a dirty diaper, but IMHO those activities are overshadowed by the good times.
It got me to thinking about life in general and healthcare, in specific.
Much has been written about the oft times difficult, psycho-social atmosphere of inter- and intra-professional communication among healthcare professionals, whether in acute, long term, or clinical outpatient care. Recent research and news reports share the worrisome data that even prior to the pandemic, this problem has added to the nursing shortage.
Let’s start from the beginning: Any clinical professional can recall being a new grad; a newbie. It’s simultaneously exciting and frightening. It’s exciting, because if you’ve passed your licensure exams, and you realize the day you’ve been dreaming about for years, has finally arrived! YES! Formal classes are OVER (for a while, anyway)! Let’s party! Uncork the champagne! High fives! It’s exhilarating!
Simultaneously, the first days when you walk onto the floor as an RN, it’s frightening, because you realize how much you still must learn. You’re afraid you might mess up and kill someone!
Hopefully within a year or so, we ease into the work and feel pleased and proud to be involved in a dynamic profession where you can see your effect on changing people’s lives, for the good! It’s exhausting — but invigorating.
And yet, there’s a dark underbelly of the work (whether clinical, administrative, or academic) especially in nursing, where some are still marginalized, for a raft of reasons, and feel unwelcome, even after the freshman year of arrival. Some point to racism, but I push back and say that’s not the sole reason, or why would I, a white-skinned person, have felt it?
The babies I held in arms this week brought me back to the times with my own sweet children.
Then, it struck me: the parallel between the infant child and the newbie nurse. Both have a sense of the world around and can behave in certain specific ways, to live authentically.
However, even in a less than perfect parenting situation, a baby feels free to wail if circumstances are not calm. That’s where the parallel often breaks down. At work, the newbie nurse often does not have the benefit of knowing their voice will be heard. Moreover, healthcare organizations often place value on caring for patients/clients but not for each other. How ironic is that?
I argue, with Miss Nightingale, that it is our integrity that gives us the agency to do the work we do, and that integrity (and caring) should extend to everyone whose path we cross.
So, what can be done to rectify this situation? Here are three ideas, in no particular order:
- Nurse residency programs: Having a support group of other new-to-the -organization nurses and at least one mentor to give a listening ear and good advice is a way to nurture new talent, no matter what their age or experience, upon arrival to the culture. Sadly, many facilities, especially during COVID 19, are so strapped, they find no time or line-item in the budget to facilitate such pleasantries. (Don’t get me started on why there is so much allocated to C-Suite salaries and so little funding for nurse residencies!)
- Magnet and Pathways Plans: If you are a nurse, you already know about the ANA/ANCC programs that inculcate a much-needed culture of caring, for everyone, alongside specific routes to increase patient/client satisfaction and retain employees. Yes, it takes some time to accomplish, but it is a giant step forward; the effort is worth it.
- Applied Improvisational Exercises: This training should be mandatory for all leadership teams. In fact, my research shows learning this method of relationship-based communication improves individual self-confidence, stimulates teamwork, and paves the way for spontaneous innovation and creative problem-solving. These are all necessary skills to improve emotional intelligence, increase patient safety, increase employee satisfaction and employee retention rates.
For those who are interested in reading more about improvisation from the arts and the application in healthcare, I invite you to download the first chapter of my book, Improv to Improve Healthcare: A System for Creative Problem-Solving.
Here’s all you need to do:
Just TEXT the number 72000 and type in CANDY (or Candy) in the message area.
Meanwhile, I hope you find MANY blessings to be thankful for this holiday season.
Oops – Almost forgot!
Here are the two latest podcasts that ‘dropped’ recently. Enjoy!
Powerful and Passionate Healthcare Professionals with Sabrina Runbeck:
Let’s Have This Conversation with Kevin McShane: