The nursing team within any unit, department or agency could readily be compared to an orchestra. Here we’ll find the nurse manager/conductor, several lead players, many supporting players and those who remain even deeper in the background.

In an orchestra, the smallest instrument can have an outsized purpose, and the instruments that only play occasionally are still crucial to a successfully executed performance. The same may be said of the nursing team.

On such a team of nurse professionals, some members may assume modest yet important roles, but still perform essential tasks like taking call, doing IV starts, or serving as the covering nurse for holidays and weekends.

All members and their assigned tasks make up the music of the team, and it is the job of the thoughtful and skilled leader or maestro to bring it all seamlessly together, no matter the situation.

Performing Under All Circumstances

The nurse maestro and the orchestra itself lack the privilege of canceling the performance, refunding tickets or sending the audience home. The team must be ready to play its best at any given moment, and it’s the task of the nurse conductor to consistently bring the players and instruments to the table for a command performance.

As healthcare professionals, we know that every shift has its moments of challenge and duress. Not all parties are cooperative, and a staggering number of factors can throw off the tempo or cause an important section of the orchestra to play out of tune. Clinical cacophony can ruin a nurse’s night and cause patients to feel unsafe and uncared for.

Negative workplace behaviors, incivility, harassment and bullying can play a deleterious part in the healthcare work environment, and key players can be lost to nurse attrition at any time due to endless potential causes of disruption and discord. The nursing orchestra pit can quickly become a veritable snake pit of bruised egos and hurt feelings when the players are poorly managed, unhappy, or overworked.

The nurse leader must contend with challenges related to human resources, the supply chain, administrative issues, financial constraints, and all manner of interruptions and unnecessary pauses in the melody that constitutes the nursing workflow, and the tune must start yet again as each shift ends and another begins.

Bringing it All Together

On good days and in the best of moments, the nurse orchestra shines and every player and instrument does its part.

When harmony reins in the nursing station or home health agency, the orchestra plays with great beauty, and each member of the team can end his or her shift with a feeling that the job was indeed well done and the audience of patients treated with optimal care.

Those good days may bring with them increased employee satisfaction, improved patient outcomes, and a sense that the melodies are truly being played with skill. Moreover, as the team coalesces and individuals take ownership of their specific parts, harmony becomes even more commonplace, rather than the occasional exception.

When all parties assume best intentions, conduct themselves with a positive attitude, and work towards mutually agreed upon goals, the possibility of optimal nursing and patient care can then manifest.

With an experienced nurse conductor, a willing audience of patients, and a diverse team of nurse “players” ready to take part, the melodies and harmonies of well-played care can ring through the halls of a productive healthcare workplace.