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4 Actions to Promote Workplace Civility

Publish Date: October 26, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed healthcare professionals and made the workplace even more vulnerable for nurses. Burn out, staffing challenges, general uncertainty and increasing patient acuity have all contributed to this increased vulnerability, according to David Wyatt, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNOR, 2020-2021 president of AORN. He says, “the time for a focus on workplace civility may never be more appropriate than the present.”

During Wyatt’s presidency, he shaped an interdisciplinary taskforce on workplace civility that includes representatives from AORN, the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) and the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) with the shared goal to ensure comprehensive and meaningful actions to end workplace incivility.

The first formal action from this collaboration is a position statement on workplace civility that has been developed and endorsed by AORN, AANA and ASPAN. The statement calls on individual healthcare facilities to develop collaborative and comprehensive policies that identify, mitigate, evaluate, and report uncivil behavior.

“I am pleased with the work of this taskforce and proud of the interdisciplinary approach that was taken to ensure a comprehensive and meaningful impact could be initiated,” Wyatt says. “The work around incivility will be a part of our ongoing efforts at AORN on behalf of perioperative nurses and the patients they serve.”

Promoting Workplace Civility

The process involved in shaping the position statement began with research and literature reviews on evidence-based practices relating to workplace civility. This research addresses known safety risks to nurses and their patients associated with bullying, horizontal violence, aggression, harassment, intimidation, manipulation, threats, overt and covert acts of violence, microaggression, condescending tone, and physical violence within the workplace.

Research also shows how a culture that supports awareness of others can help decrease psychological stress, increase patient and staff satisfaction, and even enhance productivity, according to the statement.

To help create a civil workplace, the statement outlines these four guiding actions perioperative leaders and frontline staff members can foster:

  1. Assess for Areas to Improve Civility

    Conduct a full workplace assessment of conflict and disruptive behaviors to inform a workplace violence prevention program.

  2. Create Organizational Policies and Resources that Promote Civility

    Shape a code of conduct to establish expectations for civil behavior and establish a zero-tolerance policy for incivility to help minimize abuse and possible harm to employees.

    Policies should also address the aspects of instilling a just culture that incorporates transparency, safety, trust, and accountability among all staff members. Additionally, organizations should establish counseling support that can help employees after stressful situations.

  3. Provide Ongoing Education for Stress Management and Conflict Management

    Ongoing education needs to be provided to all health care team members that is specific to addressing workplace incivility and other disruptive behaviors. A focus on educating team members to effectively communicate and resolve conflict is an essential part of a strong safety culture. This training should also include assertiveness training, diversity training, and stress management education.

  4. Embrace Civil Behavior

    Civility should be an expectation in every professional encounter that is demonstrated through civil communication, tolerance, respect, responsibility, and positive interpersonal interactions.

Read the full AANA, AORN, ASPAN Position Statement on Workplace Civility under the Patient and Workplace Safety section.

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