From Workplace to Community
Whether your practice setting is a nursing unit in a busy hospital, clinic, department, outpost, or the community, you may have noticed that staff expresses a sense of isolation or disconnectedness frequently represented in the comment, “If only others knew what we really do here.” How do you, as nurse manager, help staff make connections and build new relationships within the larger organization and setting in which the health care service is delivered? This chapter will help you to help your staff bridge these organizational gaps.
In this chapter, you will learn:
1. The value of promoting staff connectedness beyond the walls of the practice setting
2. How to encourage relationship-building capacity among staff members
3. Tips for managing staff opportunities for connectedness
DOWN WITH SILOS; UP WITH RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
In addition to managing the generation gaps, nurse managers must also help staff build relationships by managing relationship gaps within the practice setting, the organization, and the community. Years ago, nurses tended not to focus on what was happening in the organization beyond the four walls of their practice setting. Nurses generally concerned themselves primarily with their own unit-based issues. Today, this type of thinking can be hazardous to a nurse’s professional relationship health! Our relational economy requires organizations to strengthen the quality of workplace relationships to facilitate internal and external collaboration and organizational effectiveness.
THE BAD NEWS AND THE GOOD NEWS
The bad news is that many nurses now experience strong feelings of isolation and a sense of not feeling valued by others in the organization. These feelings may shed light on the powerlessness that so often accompanies the victims of organizational change or reflect oppressed group behavior.
The good news is that today, through a slow process of organizational osmosis, nurses are learning more about the work of the organization, how their practice setting complements that work, and the overall organizational impact on the well-being of the communities in which they serve.
Cross-pollination is occurring, as nurses participate with other staff members on organizational committees. In-patient nurses are teaching in the community. In a variety of practice settings, staff members are conducting “open houses” to showcase their work. Staff nurses are frequent members of organizational recruitment teams. The better news is that, for the most part, nurses love it! Participating on local committees becomes a launching point for participation at national and international forums, extending the nursing influence in health care planning and decision making.
A BLESSING AND A CURSE
Most everything has an upside and downside. As staff are inspired to spread their organizational wings into domains once considered the nurse manager’s responsibility, staff nurses are conducting conversations and making decisions that occur outside their practice setting. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, nurses may enhance relationship building. However, taking nurses beyond their comfort zone with little experience or coaching in organizational (potentially political) relationships may require some nurse managers to engage in “damage control.” Consider this as a natural part of the learning process; one in which you are willing to extend trust and consider mistakes as opportunities to learn. The purpose is to facilitate professional development. The benefits of facilitating relational growth opportunities for nurses include:
• Broadening staff members’ individual and collective professional perspectives.
• Building leadership capacity when staff members represent their practice settings.
• Creating opportunities for expanding your staff’s organizational learning regarding the culture, politics, and relationships that influence the health care setting.
• Facilitating two-way communication between frontline staff, the organization, and the community, and vice versa.
• Increasing staff autonomy through direct involvement in decision making.
• Positioning staff to positively influence professional practice organization-wide and beyond.