Trying to change the culture of a workplace is one of the most difficult undertakings any leader will face. For our frontline nurses, this task can seem beyond them and so, unfortunately, some negative cultures will remain unchallenged. Cultures where nurses ‘eat their young’, bullying is rife, poor practice is silently condoned and the focus is on assigning blame rather than finding the cause behind errors. Cultures that not only drive skilled and compassionate nurses out of our profession, but also jeopardise patient safety. When faced with one of these cultures, many nurses might ask – what can I do?
It is easy to be overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem. However, this is where frontline nurses can have a significant impact as the most effective changes are those driven from the bottom up. As with most things, the first step, or in this instance, the first shift is the hardest. This is the shift where you decide that you will be the change you want to see on your ward. This is the shift where you will no longer quietly acquiesce with behaviours that feed the negative culture, where instead you will stand up for yourself, your patients and your colleagues. This is the shift where you flex your moral courage muscles, where you will rock the boat rather than go down with the ship.
I’m not saying that it will be easy. Again, as with most things, it will become easier with practice. Each shift you approach with the determination and passion to create a positive culture will have a bigger impact than you realise. You can be the pebble that creates the ripples that builds into an unstoppable wave of change. It starts with you making the decision and having the courage to follow through.
**Laurie is a regular columnist for the Australian College of Nursing “The Hive” Magazine offering her perspective as an early career nurse. This column was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue ***