What Are & How Do We Build Positive Emergent Behaviors in Healthcare?

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hospital roomIn the medical model, there is a tendency to control things based on evidence, education, and experience.  There is good reason for this.  IN SOME AREAS! Treatments, pharmaceuticals, checklists and surgical equipment, protocols for interventions based on research makes sense.  When we control things that make a difference in outcomes, we should, right?  But is an intellectual approach to changing behavior the best way to go for challenges we face in communication, collaboration, or leadership?  Promoting desired outcomes in the realm of interactive human behaviors requires experiential learning.


What do positive emergent behaviors look like in healthcare?

The social worker who reminds the unit coordinator that computer system is going to be down during the evening shift.

The nurse who tells her peers she does not want to talk about another nurse behind her back.

 The nurse leader who negotiates budget allocations for delegation skill training for nursing staff  and a part-time nurse assistant during the busiest times. 

The surgeon who tells the OR team she expects each of them to watch for and report problems. 

The housekeeper who shares her insight with the clinical team that a post-op patient’s fear of falling was the reason she was afraid to walk with the physical therapist.

The nurse assistant who went in and held a patient’s hand in the middle of the night when she sensed the patient was anxious.

These behaviors emerge in the context of relationships and arise out of emotional intelligence, communication skills, and collaborative practices.  They are key for safe care, optimal patient experience, rewarding careers, and cost-effective delivery of care.

How do we promote emergent behaviors that lead to safe care, positive workplaces and rewarding careers? 

Leadership has both the power and responsibility, (with ownership from all stakeholders), to set the stage so that that emergent behavior is healthy, respectful, and safe. Staff need structure that includes resources, protocols, training, clear expectations, and when necessary disciplinary action.  This is the more intellectual part.  It is also crucial to provide ongoing behavioral processes that include role-modeling, coaching, giving and receiving feedback, celebrating successes, and forgiveness.  This is the experiential part.

One very effective and fun way to teach and practice “soft skills” that help with communication, collaboration, and leadership is Medical Improv. 

Like basketball practice,  Medical Improv activities elevate each player’s ability to communicate, collaborate, and lead. So when the game starts,  individuals and teams are performing at their best.  Unpredictable and fluid, the human interactive aspects of healthcare interventions can emerge in the moment with a dynamic that has already been established.  OR team surgery

Are you curious to learn more about this dynamic and fun way to develop key skills for your staff, self, or organization?  Join our team of experts who all want to share their enthusiasm and ideas for making healthcare, safer, kinder, and more rewarding to work in.  Medical Improv:  Exploring Learning Experiences for Promoting Safe Care, Patient Experience, & Rewarding Careers” is a 100 min Youtube sponsored by The Infusion Group™, with Judy White, SPHR, GPHR and co-facilitated by Integrative Health Specialist, Stephanie Frederick, M.Ed, RN.  I believe this promises to be one of the most ‘out-of-the-box’ and hopeful messages for the future of healthcare you’ve seen yet!  

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6 Responses to What Are & How Do We Build Positive Emergent Behaviors in Healthcare?

  1. Melissa AuClair says:

    It’s amazing how we improve as a team when we start communicating better- meaning that we are less focused on hierarchy and formalities- and more focused on team work, protecting our patients, and helping one another. I’ve been blessed to work with so many good team but one team on the pm shift in a smaller hospital stands out in my mind. This healthcare team made me a better nurse- and a better person. I owe a lot to them and their excellent communication skills.They were demonstrating “positive emergent” skills before we had a name for it 🙂

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      That team example you had sounds great, Melissa. Anytime you want to elaborate a bit on it, it would make a great blogpost!

  2. I think that many nursing departments suffer from low moral and short staffing. Nurses are struggling to response to emergent situations and often have trouble being proactive. Also, they struggle with staying positive.
    It would be difficult to find any nurse who couldn’t benefit from learning better “soft skills” and positive emergent behaviors.
    There’s a good article on Scrubs Magazine that gives a few tips for nurses to help them stay positive http://bit.ly/14Ugxvj, however your approach and positive emergent behaviors takes this topic to an entirely new level.

    • So true, Brittney. I still work as a per diem RN and appreciate those feelings of low moral and sometimes chronic understaffing. We can’t do what we should do and want to do and something has to give. I think ultimately Medical Improv will help improve our ability to negotiate for more staff and use delegation skills for most effective use of staff will help organizations to establish healthy staff patient-ratios that are cost-effective.

  3. Louise B Peele, MSN,PNP says:

    I view this as humanizing healthcare in a broad sense. Listening, acknowledging the validity of the communication and then bringing an understanding(drawing from multiple fields–personal experience, recognition of other’s experience, knowledge or knowing, implications, etc.) into the interaction will produce an understanding. I believe we have to humanize the client or patient and health care provider also. As you have communicated well there are times for protocols and then there are times for “softness”. As the practice of nursing is also an art and science, there will be those who will find the Art revisited to be most challenging. Medicine too is an art and science. I have been fortunate in that I have been tuned into the “soft skills”: however, it has not been easy in many moments. As a PNP, families appreciated the soft skills and their contribution to problem-solving and decision-making and education.

    • Thanks for your comments, Louise. Humanizing healthcare is a great perspective. I also know what you mean, I think, re: being tuned into the “soft skills” and how sometimes it can be challenging. Being sensitive about and to others….a great capacity for empathy and other EQ, but in some cultures we may be told to ‘toughen up’ or ‘earn our stripes’. Not necessarily a good thing for our patients, selves, or team.

What are your thoughts?