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Going to work for a large company is like getting on a train. Are you going 60 miles an hour, or is the train going 60 miles an hour and you’re just sitting still?

–J. Paul Getty

The definition of a healthy workplace has evolved considerably over the years. It originally focused almost exclusively on the physical work environment. Now, however, the definition has expanded to include interpersonal and psychosocial factors as well as environmental issues—all of which can have a profound effect on employee health and workplace satisfaction (Blake, 2016; Cummings et al., 2010).

These days, a healthy workplace environment (HWE) provides staff a feeling of inclusion, safety, and motivation. The staff cares about the organization because they feel it has their best interests at heart. An HWE in a healthcare setting encourages better teamwork, increased productivity, improved patient experience scores and safety outcomes, and decreased sick leave and employee attrition rates. And, of course, it’s much easier to have critical conversations in nursing when you operate in an HWE!

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has developed six standards for establishing and sustaining an HWE (AACN, 2016):

  • Skilled communication: According to The Joint Commission, poor communication is a leading contributor to sentinel events. Healthcare organizations are encouraged to identify and address barriers to effective communication among healthcare teams.

  • True collaboration: True collaboration means walking the talk—in other words, engaging in actions that support words. True collaboration is a process, not an isolated event. True collaboration also means giving credit where credit is due—and not taking it when it’s not deserved. (Script 9.1 outlines how to handle when someone claims credit for your idea.)

  • Effective decision-making: Nurses who do not have control over their scope of practice feel marginalized and demoralized. It’s critical to empower them to make decisions. Nurses must also be educated in the skills of communication, goal-setting, negotiation, conflict management and resolution, and performance improvement. Education and professional development in these skills are key to successfully implementing this standard.

  • Appropriate staffing: Inappropriate staffing compromises patient safety— which is always the top priority—and is a leading cause of dissatisfaction among nurses. With the increasing complexity of patient illnesses, appropriate staffing involves more than just a fixed nurse-to-patient ratio. (Note that ensuring that the standards of true collaboration and effective decision-making are met can help bridge staffing gaps.)

  • Meaningful recognition: For nurses to feel valued by the organization, they must be recognized by the organization for their contributions and performance. They must also take an active role in recognizing their peers and colleagues in kind.

  • Authentic leadership: Authentic leaders adopt flexible styles that fit the situation and capabilities of their teammates. These leaders are also genuine—remaining sensitive to the needs of others while adjusting their behavior according to the context.

These six standards reflect evidence-based and relationship-centered ...

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