Looking after yourself is best for you and your patients

I read a report this week that brought home just how important it is for us to look after ourselves in the workplace. And, how if we don’t how that can have a direct impact on patient and client outcomes.

The JAMA Surgery medical journal report showed that patients of surgeons who have been reported by colleagues for unprofessional conduct are at a significantly higher risk of post-operative complications. Now what’s interesting is that the complaints were not limited to poor or unsafe care in the operating room. The complaints also included not having clear or respectful communications and acting without integrity or responsibility.

In other words, surgeons who were unprofessional to their colleagues were much more likely to have poorer patient outcomes. Conversely, those surgeons who had no complaints from colleagues about professional behaviour had far better outcomes for their patients post-surgery.

It’s clear that poor workplace culture can affect employees physical and mental health. This report reminds us that poor workplace culture also has a significant impact on patient outcomes too.

Workplace culture and patient/client outcomes

I often hear about poor patient and client outcomes when I work in health, aged care and not-for-profit organisations. I see how challenging professional behaviours and cultures undermine people’s ability todo their job well.  As health, allied health and welfare professionals, the implicit trust we are given each day is a huge privilege. We are all motivated to be the best we can for those that entrust us with our care.

Observing, being surrounded by or even expressing unprofessional behaviour can lead to poorer patient and client outcomes. After all, it’s hard to be your best if the workplace culture is negative.

Self-care in the workplace

Understanding the impact the conduct of our colleagues has on us is important if we’re are to perform out our best.

What situations stress you at work? And how does that stress impact on your ability to do your job well? Does it have an impact on your patient or client interactions?

Understanding our ‘hot buttons’ and what presses them is critical in being able to be fully present at our work. We must not ignore our own fragility. We also need to be mindful of our own conduct.

When we don’t self-care, we can’t care for others. Our behaviour can reflect our lack of self-care and this can be contagious spreading to others, the group and ultimately the team culture. The nasty cycle of projection takes us back to patient and client outcomes not being as they should.

Remembering our purpose

For the majority of us who work in health, aged-care and not-for-profit sector, we enter into these roles to make a difference.  Remembering this sense of purpose is super important in making sure we remain fully present in our jobs. When we forget our motivation, we become less mindful of those ‘hot button’ triggers. We may then not realise the impact those stresses are having on our professional conduct.  This then contributes to a culture which diverts us from being fully present and can lead to…poorer patient and client outcomes.

 Our professional ethos for all – no matter what our craft is– is to do no harm. As human’s, we all make mistakes, but there are some that are avoidable. What we say, how we look at each other and how we feel all contribute to the work culture. And ultimately the outcomes for our patients and clients.  

Mistakes are inevitable but behaviour is up to us.Remembering our purpose and reminding ourselves of the privilege of serving our patients and clients brings mindfulness to our behaviour. It allows us to recognise the impact the workplace culture is having on our mental health and how that flows through to our interactions with our patients. It also reminds us of what we ourselves are contributing to the workplace culture.

To find out more, join me and others at ANMFPsychological Hazards Healthcare Conference on Friday 16 August 2019 in Melbourne.

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