Great Team Work – Your Biggest Asset

Team work – A vital element for nurse unit managers

Working as a team is as important as good equipment, effective rostering and excellent patient care. In fact I believe the ability for each group of staff to work as a team determines whether it is a good shift – or a shift we all want to go home and forget about!

There will always be shifts when things just don’t go as planned. Staff may not turn up, patients or residents may become unwell or we may just have higher acuity across the patient list which is always challenging. Our resources may be stretched and when this occurs the stress levels of staff can become tangible. The ripple effect of this stress will be noted not only by other colleagues but also by patients.

Before I focused on developing teams I have witness the staff potentially heading off course with inter-colleague friction, frustration and lack of communication. It can be uncomfortable and disconcerting and although it is up to each team member to take responsibility for their behaviour, there are things that can be done from a team leader’s perspective to steer outcomes in a more favourable direction.

For me, no matter what happens on any shift, it is not the events or the individual circumstances which determine how I feel whilst I am at work. At the end of the day it is the interaction with the staff that affects whether I have had a positive experience or a negative one. I have had many shifts that have not gone as planned, but the atmosphere and energy of the staff has always been what has pulled me through – when we have worked successfully as a team.

There have been times where I have managed aged facilities in lock down with gastroenteritis; there have been lack of supplies, linen, urinals and bedpans of all things and more. But amidst all this,  somehow we have managed to laugh together, to boost each other along, to plan how to deal with the immediate issues and at the end of the shift we have come out feeling okay.  These are the days when I go home happy to come back the next day and I feel a greater sense of achievement. I may be tired but I am happy.

Recently when I was coming to terms with a loss within my own family and it was a team members response that made me realise it works both ways. She said “Do you need to go home?” and when I answered no that I would stay – she said “Come on – we are going to have a good shift. We are all here to help you.”

Music to my ears!

5 Tips for creating successful teams

1. Group staff together and state the obvious at the start of the shift – saying things like ‘We are going to have a great shift – let’s all work together to make this happen’ and ‘Call out if you need any help – I am here’ will help set your intention for the shift.

2.  Ensure that all team members understand what their roles are, what procedures and required and what work practices are involved. Discuss the shift requirements with the staff – do they have any concerns about what they are expected to do?

3.   Maintain clear communication with all team members as the shift proceeds – checking in regularly to ask how they are managing. You may not be able to change the immediate circumstances or issues, but noting that you understand their current situation or difficulties goes a long way. I notice time and time again when nurses and carers are valued along the way they are much happier to put in the effort required to achieve common goals.

4.  Take issues reported seriously – active listening and trouble shooting at the time dissolves frustration and creates opportunities for solutions. Address issues as soon as possible and if this can’t be done take note and follow up later. Give staff feedback as to your intentions.

5. Team building takes time. It takes many shifts for staff to get a feel for how you work as a team leader. Set you standards high right from the start. Don’t be afraid to jump in and help. Praise efforts constantly and maintain high standards with your own conduct. Leading by example is powerful. Be open to feedback from the team as their input is vital – effective teams only occur if there is a two-way street.

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