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Whenever I work with three shifts of nurses, every shift seems to pit itself against the other. Each tries to prove they are the best. They give better care. They alone know what patients want. If there is a problem, it is automatically blamed on someone from another shift. We can hypothesize about why this phenomena happens. We can go on and on about the disastrous consequences of this behavior on patients, staff and the workplace as a whole. I’d rather take the time and energy to talk about how to fix it. Here are three suggestions to conquer the war between the shifts.

1. Focus on what we have in common instead of our differences:

We all went to nursing school.

We all took and passed the board exams.

We are all working at the same place.

We all share the same goal of high quality care for our patients.

2. Treat others the way we would like to be treated:

If a garbage can is not emptied one day, do we want to hear about it? Probably not; only if it happens several days in a row.

If something goes wrong or doesn’t get done, do we assume the best case scenario until we find out the facts?

I overheard a staff member from the oncoming shift say about the prior shift I worked on, “What did they do all day, drink coffee and eat bonbons?”

I let her know that I did not appreciate her comment. The other nurses and I had worked hard that day. She voiced a problem with something that we had not done. I told her the best way to handle the issue was go to her supervisor, not made snide remarks in the middle of the hallway.

3. Ask ourselves: If someone had a problem with me, what would I like them to do?

a. Tell someone else? Now there are two people upset with you instead of one. Then they tell someone else. The more the story is told, the more it changes. Eventually, it becomes a tale far different than what actually happened. Now you have a whole group of people talking about you behind your back. What they are saying is usually not complimentary and often not true.

b. Avoid you? People stop talking when you approach them. They are not talking to you and keeping out of your way, but you don’t have a clue why. You imagine all kinds of reasons. That can drive you crazy.

c. Yell at you? Although that might be better than avoidance, it can be unpleasant. A screaming person is difficult, if not impossible to reason with. Not much is accomplished. I usually tell the person I won’t talk with them until they calm down.

d. Take you to a private spot and calmly talk about the issue.

Bottom line: We’re not on a soap opera. We don’t need all this drama. Can’t we all just get along?

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