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Is Your Workplace Culture Brave, Connected, and Empowered?

Nursing theorist Dr. Jean Watson is often quoted as saying, "Nurses are a unique kind. They have this insatiable need to care for others, which is both their greatest strength and fatal flaw." She is right. What makes nurses unique is their passionate desire to provide compassionate care and ensure the wholistic well-being of their patients. In this post-pandemic era, this open and compassionate posture is proving more difficult to maintain without further harming the nurse. The reality is that across the country, nursing shortages are crushing nurses, inflicting further harm and leading to unrest, bullying, incivility, and terrifyingly low retention rates. The already stretched-thin nurse leaders need practical tools to help them engage their teams in the slow journey of cultural transformation. A transformation that moves workplace culture from a space that inflicts further pain on the nurse to one that tends to nurses' hearts and souls. A wholistic transformation that nurtures nurses' capacity to hold compassion for themselves, their co-workers, and, most importantly, their patients.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is the set of values, norms, rituals, and beliefs that makeup how employees interact with each other, their managers, patients, and partner organizations. We sometimes only recognize that our organization has a culture when someone new arrives and points out its fatal flaws. How, then, can nurse leaders become not only aware of but in tune with the heartbeat of their workplace culture and easily note if the rhythm is off?

As nurses, we know that before we begin a care plan, we must first do a thorough assessment. We at CODE YOU believe leaders can assess their workplace culture's health by evaluating three key aspects of it: bravery, connectedness, and empoweredness.

Brave Cultures

Brave workplace cultures are psychologically safe for all members of the team. Brave cultures practice inclusion, learner safety, and encourage the contribution of ideas. To be clear, psychological safety in the workplace doesn't mean everybody is always trying to be nice or are tip-toeing around each other. It means people feel free to voice half-finished ideas, openly and respectfully question established policies and practices, and work through disagreements. In brave spaces, nurses know that leaders value honesty, openness, and truth-telling — that team members will have one another's backs.

In brave cultures, nurses experience the following:

  • A sense of purpose and pride in their work.

  • Provision of team back up when others need it.

  • Tolerance of diverse opinions.

  • A refusal to talk about others when they're not in the room.

  • A welcoming attitude toward new team members.

  • Positivity and an assumption of good intentions on the part of others.

  • Accountability and responsibility for assignments.

  • Engagement in work.

  • Speaking up without fear of retribution.

  • Respect and fairness toward others.

  • Open communication and active listening.

Connected Cultures

Connected workplace cultures offer healthy communication and support for all team members. Nurse leaders offer their teams the opportunity to develop emotional and intellectual connections. Emotional connection is developed when nurses take time to learn about shared experiences, interests, and struggles. Emotional connection reminds us we are all human and elicits deeper compassion, empathy, and trust. Intellectual connection offers healthcare teams a shared mission and values leading to clarity on how to best move forward together for the good of the team and the patient.

In connected workplace cultures, nurses find the following:

  • Teams work well together to achieve common goals.

  • Communication is transparent.

  • Team members respect their differences and support one another.

  • Every employee's feedback is listened to with respect.

  • People feel valued and seen.

  • Each employee has a well-defined role in the organization.

  • Each employee knows their team and individual goals.

  • All staff utilizes active listening and storytelling tools.

Empowered Cultures

Finally, an empowered workplace culture offers healthcare professionals the environment, tools, and support needed to become their best selves in the care of others. Research has shown that leadership is integral to creating a workplace culture where nurses feel empowered to be autonomous and exercise their own agency. Empowerment improves job satisfaction, which can affect their decision to remain within their organization and the profession and improves safety and the quality of care provided to patients and their families.

In empowered workplace cultures, nurses find the following:

  • Confidence in one's own abilities.

  • The staff knows when, where and with whom to share new ideas.

  • There is a strong sense of autonomy.

  • Freedom to fail.

  • Tools and resources are accessible for all employees to grow in their nursing practice.

  • A clear sense of collective purpose and pride in work.

  • Opportunities for ongoing personal and professional development.

Next Steps

Nurse leaders, does your team feel brave, connected, and empowered? Don't know? Consider using this assessment tool to help you better understand if the rhythm of your workplace culture signals danger or smooth sailing ahead.

Would you like to develop your leadership skills and expand your understanding of active listening, storytelling, enneagram, workplace violence, trauma-informed nursing leadership, and creating healthy workplace culture? Sign-up for our next Wholistic Nursing Leadership Course starting January 18th, 2024.



American Association of Critical-Care NursesVisit the AACN at (2023, June 27). Healthy work environments are essential - daily nurse. Daily Nurse - The Pulse of Nursing.

Gartley, C. E. (2023, March 6). Assessing unit culture. American Nurse.

Gottlieb, L. N., Gottlieb, B., & Bitzas, V. (2021, July 27). Creating empowering conditions for nurses with workplace autonomy and agency: How Healthcare Leaders could be guided by strengths-based nursing and healthcare leadership (SBNH-L). Journal of healthcare leadership.

Healthy Work Environments. AACN. (n.d.).

Investing in the future. Positive Workplace Culture in Healthcare. (n.d.).

What is psychological safety at work? how leaders can build psychologically safe workplaces. CCL. (2023, July 17). work/#:~:text=Psychological%20safety%20is%20the%20belief,taking%20risks%2C%20or%20soliciting%20feedback.

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