One of the most effective ways to prevent bullying is to create a culture of caring in a healthcare setting, including ASCs. This process calls for identifying key stakeholders and asking them to work on creating a healthy work environment initiative. The goal is to establish a culture of regard in which staff treat each other positively.

First steps include establishing a code of conduct, establishing competencies, setting clear expectations, and making management available and accessible to staff. Lynda Olender, PhD, RN, ANP, offers some other tips for creating a culture of caring and regard among staff members in the ASC:

Set up shared governance. ASCs could start projects of shared governance in which employees could brainstorm ideas and solutions while collaborating with managers. Olender recommends asking group members questions such as What are the things you would like and appreciate? and What are the things you most appreciate while working here? For instance, the group might desire fostering more teamwork through recognizing employees’ birthdays or baby showers. These are events people look forward to attending, which can lead to a more positive environment.

“This type of project would be well worth it to organizations in terms of employee retention and satisfaction,” Olender says. “If employees are unhappy, their lives are stressful. They lose sleep and have more injuries. They feel disgruntled toward the agency and leadership.”

Instead of focusing on the ASC’s growth and quality improvement, leaders who find this type of unhappy culture have to spend time combatting negative behavior.

Focus on communication and feedback. Similar to an old-fashioned phone tree, a communication network asks employees to speak with a small group of other staff until plans and ideas are communicated to everyone and feedback is obtained, Olender explains.

ASCs might hold a focus group to ask people to identify what they most appreciate about the agency and what tactics they think are necessary to produce even more positive results. The key is to keep these sessions from becoming negative. Leaders might use the word “appreciate” and steer people away from negative inquiries and comments. “People get excited about what’s working well in the workplace and what they appreciate about each other,” Olender says.

Even when an organization has experienced noticeable problems with bullying and staff might have legitimate grievances, it is best for leaders to use positive wording and framing. “You might walk into that room and cut it with a knife,” Olender says. “But I have learned that you have to go on the positive or you will find yourself in a very unhappy situation.”

For instance, Olender starts with a discussion of prevention approaches and how to establish a healthy work environment and culture of caring. “If there is a report about bullying [in the ASC], you have to address that immediately, and you have to establish mutual goals,” Olender says. “A manager has the right to expect people to get along and treat each other with respect. You don’t have to love everybody you work with, but you have to be able to work with them effectively.”

Create contagious impact. ASC managers can take actions that prevent bullying, including developing mentorships that rely on willing and proficient staff.

This takes more time than just assigning whoever seems available to take on the role. Avoid using employees who are disgruntled or close to retirement who are no longer invested in the facility’s future.

“Set up a tone for how mentoring occurs,” Olender says. “Elevate it to an important job rather than something extra the precept has to do.”

ASC directors might assess what is working well and figure out how to get more of the same, Olender offers.

“Don’t leave it to the preceptor to figure out,” she stresses. “Ask them questions about what they think would be the most helpful for the new person.”