Civility and incivility are words being discussed more often today. How do they affect you as the new nurse? How do they affect the workplace? How can healthcare organizations create a culture of civility where incivility will not be tolerated? To answer these questions we must first define the word civility. The dictionary defines the word as a "polite act or expression" The synonyms used to describe civility are couteous, pleasant, respectful, decent, and humble. Civility is often thought of as good manners. Civility is based on recognizing that all human beings are important.
It is not the same as discrimination. Incivility on the other hand can be defined as any type of behavior or speech that disrupts the harmony of the work or educational environment. It is not a new problem. The culture of "nursing eating their young" has been around for many years. Two influences have been instrumental in heightening incivility in the workplace. One has been the increase use of technology. The social medias and email make it easier to target individuals with cyber harassment and social rejection. Our world has also become desensitized.
The news media broadcasts continual violence. This desensitizes people to the reality of things like abuse, murder and crime to where it is thought of as OK or the norm. Civility is one of our foundations in nursing. It is essential to our ethical and moral obligations of caring. Being civil to one another creates a culture of caring. It also brings about teamwork and collaboration to enhance effective communication. When communication breaks down poor care ensues. Civility is necessary to the function of the organization.
How do we promote civility in the workplace? Changing a culture from incivility to civility requires choice, decisive action, and resolve. Nurse leaders on all levels from the bedside to the CNO must have honest converstaions about the purpose of the work they want to accomplish. Nurses may need to revise their assumptions about people. The staus quo must not be tolerated. No longer can we have a culture of "we've always done it this way". Silos need to be eliminated so that honest, open communication and teamwork can occur.
Civility is part of the ethical code we must live by and is necessary for the orderly functioniong of the organization. Incivility will occur when these codes are broken down. Toxic behaviors can range from the very serious bullying and lateral violence and the sabatoge of destructive people to the annonying and hard to cope with behavior of just plain jerks. Toxic employees are those that are rude, tempermental, abusive, spread gossip, sabotage work processes and create fractions. While the behaviors of jerks might be less destructive than the very toxic they can be just as difficult to cope with.
An example of this would be the preceptor who talks down to the orientee or blames the orientee for mistakes versus creating a learning environment. We are all dependent upon each other, our units and our healthcare organizations to clearly define the behaviors that will not be allowed. There are several things nurses can do to protect themselves from these types of situations. Always take care of yourself. Report incidents of harassment and keep documentation of the incidents. Always take the high road.
At no time allow yourself to drop down to the lower level of behavior. This is a large challenge because of workloads and time constraints nurses become tired and resistance becomes low. Always assume that a workable relationship can be established. Good relationships take time and work, but they are rewarding in the end not only for the nurses involved but for the patients. Always reach out for help. Do not try to carry the burden on your own. The culture of incivility will not change unless someone starts the process of change.