Just like any work environment, the typical healthcare workplace can be healthy, unhealthy, or somewhere in between. Perhaps because of the extremely important nature of the work being done there, and because so much hangs in the balance, the healthcare workplace can be more susceptible to systemic problems that hinder efficacy and success. For nurses especially, a healthy work environment is critical to ensuring that they can do their best work and achieve optimal outcomes for their patients and their patients’ families, says the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
Helping to establish healthy work environments is one of AACN’s three major advocacy initiatives. The organization’s other two advocacy priorities address palliative and end-of-life care, and staffing and workforce development. AACN lists these key traits in a healthy work environment: skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition and authentic leadership. These ingredients, notes AACN, are imperative to ensure patient safety, enhance staff satisfaction and retention, and maintain an organization's financial viability.
According to the AACN, there is increasing evidence that an unhealthy work environment contributes to medical errors, ineffective delivery of care, and stress among healthcare professionals. AACN believes that all healthcare workplaces can be healthy if nurses and their employers are determined to solve problems in various areas, such as the physical work environment, staffing and staff development, and patient safety. Problems in any one of these areas can create an unhealthy work environment. AACN is participating in task forces, policy conferences and development of national standards and documents to guide facilities and nurses toward resolving the issues that impede the development of an HWE. The organization says it is working toward its vision of "a healthcare system where acute and critical care nurses can make their optimal contribution."
Now available, AACN has a free online healthy work environment assessment tool to help nurses and their teams measure their work environment’s current health compared to the AACN Standards for Establishing and Sustaining Healthy Work Environments. You can download the Complete version (44 pages) of the AACN standards or the Executive Summary (9 pages).
The Web-based Healthy Work Environment Assessment Tool provides a baseline measurement of:
The tool is designed to further assist caregivers and their employers in implementing HWE standards by connecting them with multiple additional resources, from speakers and consultants to best practices.
Is your facility actively engaged in creating and maintaining a healthy work environment? Have you accessed the AACN toolkit or read their standard document? What do you think is the most critical component of a healthy workplace, and why?
We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.