You could argue that the medical profession is by far the most eventful major employment sector, with an unrelenting stream of patients, thousands of variables to every procedure, and the high-adrenaline rush of urgent situations like time-sensitive surgeries and the emergency room.
So it’s no surprise that in most hospitals (and many clinics), there’s little time for contemplation, reflection, or thoughtfulness.
For that reason, maybe it’s even more important to take a minute to come up with a game plan for some key things to say to your co-workers to help improve your performance and theirs:
“Can you help me?”
You may think you’re doing this sufficiently but – within reason – you can’t say this enough. As busy as you and everyone else is, saying “can you help me?” isn’t just asking for help for yourself, it’s complimenting the person you’re saying it to by showing you value their abilities.
“Can I help you?”
It’s one of the most important things to say to your co-workers and it’s also one of the most counter-intuitive – even in a busy hospital ward. You may wonder where you’re going to find the time and energy, but saying this to a colleague actually creates extra time for both of you.
“I’ve got your back…”
This is trickier than it sounds, though it pays off tremendously: In order for this one to be effective, you have to be ready to follow through. Let your co-workers know you are there to help them when they need a hand and be there for support.
“Sorry I let you down.”
Believe it or not, it isn’t the end of the world if you are in a position where this statement would be an appropriate thing to say. Admitting you fell short is something the doctors, nurses, and other staff on your shift will appreciate as a gesture to acknowledge that you realize you need to improve, rather than not admitting so and saying this at all.
“I’m sorry I didn’t…”
Similarly, you can apologize for anything else that’s your responsibility. Just be sure to avoid the always-awkward “backhanded apology”. That’s the one where you only half-apologize, by saying “sorry, but” and then outline how it was really partially the other person’s fault from your perspective. If you’re game to apologise for something you did wrong on your shift, do so, say why you’re sorry, and you’re done.
Whether you’re asking for a favor from a colleague or giving directions to subordinates, it’s always more professional to phrase your order as a polite request: If you’re at the same level or below, it’s common courtesy. If you are giving direction to those working under you, everyone knows it’s a direction and not a request. Saying “please” or “can you please” shows you respect the person you’re asking.
“That was great how you…”.
Former Walt Disney World Vice President of Operations Lee Cockerell calls this “burning the free fuel” in his leadership book “Creating Magic”. Sadly, this practice is so rare in most medical workplaces, you’ll probably shock the person you say this to at first. But telling a co-worker how well they did in dealing with a challenging patient or trick diagnosis will almost certainly make that person’s day, and in doing so, make you more desirable to work with and that person a happier, more motivated co-worker.
Things to never say to a co-worker
Things your co-workers will never tell you
Things that will make your co-workers hate you