Access Now: Transmission Precautions for Monkeypox Infection

6 Ways to Build a Sense of Community in Your Department

Publish Date: May 11, 2022

Making sure all of your team members feel welcomed, well, and inspired to grow is a professional imperative with today’s periop staff mix. However, it’s no easy task to meet the needs of new nurses (and possibly travel nurses), as well as experienced nurses, and all staff working through some level of pandemic burnout.

At Memorial Hermann Hospital–Texas Medical Center in Houston, team-wide support begins with creating a sense of community that helps staff prioritize the needs of every member of their work family,” according to Perioperative Educator Daphny Peneza, MSN, RN, CNOR, CSSM. “When you have a collective mentality to support each other, and offer general kindness, everyone is more patient, more considerate, and this takes teamwork to a higher level.”

Peneza collaborates with her leaders to operationalize staff support activities. Here are a few that Peneza says are working well to foster a connected periop community:

  1. Circle Weekly with Orientees

Peneza has held a weekly circle with every cohort of Periop 101 interns since 2020 to hear about their success stories for the week and help them feel connected to the broader team. One activity she always leads is to have each orientee create a star with their greatest strength on it that is displayed together to create a unique constellation.

“Sometimes they don’t feel confident enough in their orientation to write down a strength, but this activity helps them to see they are part of a constellation of team members that is brightest when they are together,” Peneza shares. 

  1. Train More Preceptors

With an influx of new nurses, established preceptors were feeling stretched thin. So Peneza and other clinical managers identified additional experienced nurses to create a larger pool of preceptors, Peneza explains. “With more preceptors, we are able to create breaks in between precepting assignments so our preceptors have time to refresh and refine any teaching approaches to offer their best to every new nurse.”

  1. Round Daily

Peneza and department leaders round every day at varied times to listen to concerns and keep many fingers on the pulse of the department. “As an educator, I keep an eye on my newbies, but I also stay connected with my seasoned nurses, leaders, and physician partners to identify early signs of burnout.” She says this constant checking in provides opportunities to stay tuned in to any need, whether it’s a clinical challenge or a personnel concern.

  1. Make Peer Support a Team Effort

Memorial Hermann’s Code Lilac Peer Support Team comprised of periop team members and other supporting caregivers step in when a staff member experiences a professional or personal crisis and needs emotional support. Often, the Code Lilac team comes together to engage in relaxation activities, such as music therapy, or even origami, Peneza shares. “Just today the Code Lilac team spent time with staff on the Heart and Vascular team to create colorful bead bracelets, color pictures, and simply spend time together for breakfast—it was powerful to watch as they collectively took a deep breath and even found moments to smile and laugh.”

  1. Offer Strategic Teambuilding

Peneza sets up meaningful teambuilding activities regularly for special teams, especially when they have experienced a challenging week. Recently she asked two teams to build a tower of their dreams with simple supplies that was strong, tall, and beautiful. Then she asked one team to test the strength of the other team’s tower by shaking it. “No one wanted to risk damaging something a colleague created—this helped each participant to realize how important it is to honor the hard work and heart each colleague brings to their clinical practice.”

  1. Practice Collective Self-Care

While making time for individual self-care activities such as a walk or a mindful moment is essential, Peneza also sees value in collective self-care activities with colleagues at many levels, whether as a system to embrace a professional culture of wellness, as nursing leaders to discuss team topics like retention, and at the staff level. For example, Peneza hosts “Happy and Healthy” sessions with staff who want to share a healthy snack and chat about clinical practice and holistic health practices. “This is a nice way for all of us to recharge physically and professionally and remember that an important part of self-care is taking time to be with others.”

Peneza also stresses the value of relationship-building between new and established leaders. She recently talked about her work with her executive mentor and Associate Vice President of Perioperative Services Deborah Marie Ebert, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CNOR, CCRN-K, CPAN, CAPA, during their education session on Nurse Mentoring: Key to Meaningful Professional Integration and Sustainable Future. Listen to their session with the AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo Virtual Pass through June 21.

Free Resources for Members