What Makes a Positive, Healthy Work Environment?  You do, of course!  Okay, so perhaps I exaggerate a bit.  I am not, nor do I wish to sound like a Pollyanna. You and you alone do not make a work environment positive and healthy.  But it is within your power to make whatever environment that you occupy healthier, more positive and more fullfilling to you and others that occupy your shared space. The lin between healthy work environments and patient safety, nurse retention, recruitment, and thus the bottom line, is irrefutable.  The standards of establishing and sustaining healthy work environments as outlined by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) are skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition and authentic leadership.  Each of these standards has been broken into critical elements that must be met for the standard to be achieved. Let's take time over the next few weeks to address those six standards.  This week we will look at Skilled Communication. Part 1 Skilled Communnication The AACN introduces Standard 1 - skilled communication - with the statement: "Nurses must be as proficient in communication skills as they are in clinical skilles.  It is a reasonable statement.  Without a competent degree of communication, every relationship and every task that is undertaken is called into jeopardy.  In this posting we are going to concentrate on skilled communication and, more specifically, what we as individual nurses can do to embrace skilled communication. The AACN lists six attributes of skilled communicators:  Skilled communicators focus on finding solutions and achieving desirable outcomes. Skilled communicators seek to protect and advance collaborative relationships among colleagues. Skilled communicators invite and hear all relevant perspectives. Skilled communicators call upon goodwill and mutual respect to build consensus and arrive at common understanding. Skilled communicators demonstrate congruence between words and actions, holding other accountable for doing the same.  Skilled communicators have access to appropriate communication technologies and are proficient in their use.  The Healthcare organization is responsible for setting policies, procedures and structures that foster comminication between the organization and the employees, patients and families.  This is done in a number of ways.  The AACN lists the following: The healthcare organization provides team members with support for and access to education programs that develop critical communication skills including self-awareness, inquiry/dialogue, conflict management, negotiation, advocacy and listening.  The healthcare organization establishes zero-tolerance policies and enforces them to address and eliminate abuse and disrespectful behaviors in the workplace.  The healthcare organization establishes systems formal structures and processes that ensure effective information sharing among patients, families and the healthcare team.  The healthcare organization establishes systems that require individuals and teams to formally valuate the impact of communication on clinical, financial and work environment outcomes.  The healthcare organization includes communication as a criterion in its formal performance appraisal system and team members demonstrate skilled communication to qualifiy for professional advancement.  We want to hear from you. So how do you promote, practice and meet the challenges of skilled communication?  I'll go first.   When communicating with a person be present.  Do not multitask. Do not plan responses before you have heard what is said.  Look the person in the eyes, be thoughtful and hear not just the words, but the message.  Here is a link to the AACN's Healthy Work Environments Initiative. http://www.aacn.org/wd/hwe/content/hwehome.pcms?menu=community