They gathered on a weekend morning on Key Biscayne, walked the beach and cleaned up debris. But for the nurses in the four critical care units at the University of Miami Hospital and Clinics, this was more than an environmentally friendly endeavor – it was an opportunity to get to know each other better.
“We met at 9 a.m. on a Saturday at Crandon Park. People brought their kids and their significant others, and nurses from all the units attended,” said Joseph Falise, M.S.N., nurse manager of the cardiovascular ICU and the neuroscience ICU.
“The event made a difference for us as a team,” he said. “We were able to connect with each other on a more personal level, outside of the hospital.”
Beyond the park cleanup, one aim of the team building exercise was to improve communication among the four critical care units. In fact, skilled communication and true collaboration are two of the essential standards involved in a healthy work environment, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
“Research shows that a healthy work environment can lead to more engaged nurses, decreased burnout, lower turnover and better patient care,” the association says on its website.
“A happy and safe work environment is associated with better patient satisfaction and better patient outcomes,” Falise said.
The idea for the event emerged from the Unit Practice Council, a group of bedside nurses who get together to talk about how to make the units better. The council encourages all members to contribute through its shared governance policy.
“We met and brainstormed ideas for team building,” Falise said. “Yaritza Gonzalez suggested coming together to clean up the beach at Crandon Park.”
After gaining administration approval, the Unit Practice Council developed a flyer and designed T-shirts for the event. UHealth Tower provided garbage bags, gloves and drinking cups so participants would stay hydrated.
Other clinicians who want to improve collaboration and communication within their departments should refer to the healthy work environment standards. Falise says a Unit Practice Council can play an important role, offering “a completely different perspective on how to run a unit.”