Breaking the Cycle of Incivility in Nursing: Creating a Culture of Respect and Collaboration

Teresa Sanderson, RN, CCM

Nursing is a profession that requires immense dedication, skill, and compassion. However, the demands of the job can often lead to high levels of stress and burnout. To improve nursing retention, decrease stress & burnout, and improve the patient experience, it is essential to identify the key elements of nursing culture and work environment that need to be transformed. Two failing systems in nursing are nursing culture and work environment.

One of the primary aspects of nursing culture that must be transformed is the prevalence of a negative and unsupportive work environment. Nurses work long hours in high-stress environments, and it is vital to create a culture that values and prioritizes support for both new and seasoned nurses. This can be achieved through various strategies, including investing in emotional intelligence training to improve nurse to nurse communication, and  zero-tolerance policies for nursing incivility and bullying.

Another element of nursing culture that cannot be ignored is the practice of “nurses eating their young.” This refers to the hazing graduate nurses may experience when they begin their first role as a nurse as well as seasoned nurses who float to other units to support other nurses. Both new and seasoned nurses can experience this hazing that can include ignoring their questions, eye rolling, heavy sighing, and even ridiculing in front of others. Nurses can be subjected to verbal and emotional abuse from colleagues or superiors, which results in a toxic work environment riddled with turnover, stress and burnout. To address this issue, it is essential to promote a culture of respect, communication, and collaboration among nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Improving the patient experience requires a focus on patient-centered care. This involves creating a culture where patients and their families are involved in their care, and their unique needs and preferences are taken into account. The investment in emotional intelligence training for nurses to improve nursing communication and culture spills over into nurse to patient communication. Emotionally intelligent nurses can understand the stress patients and families are under due to hospital admission and illness. The emotionally intelligent nurse has the skills to communicate with and decrease the sense of fear and anxiety experienced by the patient and family.

In summary, identifying the key elements of nursing culture and work environment that need to be transformed is essential to promote improved nursing retention, decrease stress & burnout, and improve the patient experience. Creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes the well-being of nurses, promoting a culture of respect and collaboration, and focusing on patient-centered care are all crucial steps towards achieving these goals. As a profession, it is our responsibility to work together to create a brighter future for nursing and improve the quality of care for our patients.

Sign up for the complimentary workshop: MAKING NURSES MATTER: TRANSFORMING NURSING CULTURE & WORK ENVIRONMENT coming up May 8-11, 2023!