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What Does A Healthy Nursing Culture Look Like?

Publish Date: January 13, 2021


A healthy work setting rests heavily on the shoulders of our leaders, explains Dr. Phyllis. “Our new reality around repeated exposure to violence, patient trauma, the possibility of and active shooter and now, the threat posed by this pandemic, necessitate a new set of leadership competencies.”

Dr. Phyllis recommends these competencies be focused on:

  • Self-awareness so that the leader has a good understanding of how they are feeling.
  • Understanding the signs and symptoms of staff behavior associated with mounting, unrelenting stress.
  • Training on the compassionate management of these situations and how to escalate them effectively so that the staff member can access the services that they need to restore or maintain their resilience.

There are signals a leader can create for healthy staff communications that are color-based. For example, Dr. Phyllis suggests, use the color green to indicate feeling good, competent and capable. Yellow indicates feelings of stress or fatigue that are still manageable. If a team member describes their feelings as orange, take note. It may be time for a break, either a walk around the block or a change to their schedule. Red is a warning sign to take seriously. Red may require an intervention of some sort such as counseling or a furlough.

When your staff is given these color tools, they can more easily articulate their emotions and state of mind without feeling judged. They will help you help them in times of need.

You’ll find more help for nurse well-being in the podcast series, A Nursing State of Mind, produced by AORN for the American Nurse Foundation’s Well-Being Initiative. Learn more.