The past couple of years have been extremely isolating for many people, healthcare workers included. Quarantine, social distancing, and higher-pressure work environments have been taking a serious toll on doctors and nurses around the world. Without a solid support structure and social connections, these stressors hit even harder. Burnout can begin to affect those without adequate support, leading to even worse mental health outcomes.
One of the most effective ways to combat this is through making connections. You can do this with fellow healthcare professionals, who understand you and your situation.
Why is it important to connect with your colleagues?
It may not seem like it, but making friends with your colleagues can significantly improve your performance at work. Not only can it help make your workplace a more positive and productive place, but it can have a strong impact on your mental health.
Mental health has always been a critical concern for medical workers, but it has recently gained more public attention. While it’s still very important for hospitals and clinics to provide support structures for clinicians, there are steps you can take to bolster your mental health.
The American Medical Association recently published a guide for clinicians to manage their mental health during COVID-19. One of the studies among their research examines the psychological effects of quarantine. Their recommended mental health strategies include maintaining both physical and social well-being. Mental health professionals agree that social connections are one of the strongest deterrents to negative psychological effects in times of crisis.
When facing stressful situations at work, it can be incredibly helpful to work alongside people you understand and trust. You can share the highs and lows of your work, talk about your experiences, and learn and grow as professionals together. Sometimes a fellow healthcare worker will understand what you’re going through better than those who don’t work in medicine. You’re also more likely to get relevant advice from someone who has experienced your situation before.
Even in temporary staffing arrangements, it’s important to find common ground with your team. Your working friendships don’t have to last forever, and they can help you adjust to a new clinic more quickly. You may even discover new opportunities from unlikely sources!
No matter your position in your hospital or clinic, self-isolation from your peers can have a negative impact on your professional and personal life. You may feel alienated from your profession. You will have a harder time understanding and working with your coworkers. And you may find it harder to cope with the stresses of working in medicine. It’s vital for healthcare professionals to support one another.
What are some ways to connect?
It’s not always easy to connect with your coworkers in faster-paced workplaces, but it can be done. The most important thing to remember is to stay open-minded, especially if you’re not used to socializing with colleagues.
Sometimes a workplace friendship starts with a conversation during a break, or after the end of a shift. Grab a coffee with someone who works in your unit or offer to buy lunch. If you often work with the same people, consider starting a group chat through text or on apps like WhatsApp. Not only is it helpful for coordinating work-related matters, but you can also organize meetups outside of work, or just chat with a coworker.
Working alongside your teammates is a great way to learn your strengths, weaknesses, and how best to support each other. Offer help to your coworkers and accept their help in return. With effective communication, teamwork, and a willingness to learn from and teach each other, you can work together smoothly and create more positive outcomes for patients.
If you’re a traveling professional, ask your colleagues what they love about the area. Discover new activities, the best places to eat and shop, and must-see landmarks from your coworkers who live locally. You may even find time off-hours to see these places with your team members! Even if you end up leaving for a new contract elsewhere, it can help to keep in touch with your old colleagues. Those connections, when maintained, can last a lifetime and continue to help you throughout your career.
Speaking of spending time with colleagues outside of work, don’t be afraid to share your other hobbies or interests with them. Find things to do, places to go, and subjects to talk about that don’t revolve around the clinic. You may be surprised to find out who else shares your passions.
How else can you find community in the healthcare world?
Your connections don’t have to stop at the clinic doors. There is a whole world of healthcare communities online to explore!
Social media can be a great place for doctors and nurses to share content and meet new people. There may be groups on websites like Facebook and Reddit for your specific profession, and those groups can even be narrowed down by area. Search for your specialty’s hashtag on Twitter or LinkedIn, and quickly find fellow professionals to follow and talk to. You can learn about new opportunities, career tips, and personal experiences from others who have been in your shoes before.
There are also apps designed to create community among healthcare workers. Sermo is the most popular social networking app for doctors, boasting over 800,000 users. The Student Doctor Network provides free resources to medical students, and also hosts many active forums for student doctors across specialties. Apps like Figure1 help doctors collaborate with and learn from each other by working on real patient outcomes together.
Whether you find common ground with coworkers in your workplace or online, these relationships can uplift you and help you grow as a clinician. Remember that a healthy social life leads to a healthier mind. We hope that you find meaningful connections with your colleagues and carry them with you throughout your medical career!
Looking for a clinic with the right cultural fit for you? TheraEx matches clinicians with Locum Tenens opportunities around the U.S. Let’s work together to find the right assignment for your needs.