Healing Relationships for Healthcare Improvement Part I: We Need an Overhaul

By Beth BoyntonHot Topics, UncategorizedLeave a Comment


Working in healthcare can be a wonderful privilege where every day we have opportunities to develop therapeutic relationships and play healing roles in people’s lives. Although not mutual, these relationships can be intimate and rewarding. It can also be fulfilling to be part of a dynamic team pulling together to save lives and helping patients and families navigate tough times.  Relationships are also integral from a complexity science perspective in that we are the elements of our complex adaptive system. Bottom line: how we interact will influence all of our outcomes.

Work Relationships can be Traumatic

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are repeatedly exposed to tragedy, loss and grief in our daily work. We may be helpless in the face of disease progression while time and staffing limitations can make it very challenging to nurture healthy interprofessional and therapeutic relationships. In addition, we have pervasive problems with vertical and horizontal violence and toxic cultures. Whether painful or joyful, helpful or hurtful, with patients or each other, the relationship components of our work profoundly affect us, the systems we work in, and the care we provide.

The Value of Different Thinking

As a nurse, author and medical improv practitioner, I have one foot in the science of healthcare and one in the art. This isn’t new for me or necessarily a conscious path, but before I went to nursing school I earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry with a minor in theater and communication. This perspective helps me see how incredibly valuable improv can be for nurturing positive relationships and convey that to others. In an effort to do that, throughout this series we’ll explore three separate topics and then discuss how they are related. First, we’ll look at the vast complexity of what is going on between us. Second we’ll dive into the concept of neuroplasticity and practices that support it. And finally, we’ll uncover how experiential strategies from medical improv can be helpful.

Stay tuned for Part II next week where we answer the very intriguing question of, “What is going on between us?” But first, I’d like to hear from you: What is going on between us? Why do you think we struggle with relationships in healthcare?



About the Author
Beth Boynton

Beth Boynton

Beth Boynton, RN, MS specializes in communication, collaboration, and workplace culture. She is a Medical Improv Practitioner and author of Medial Improv: A New Way to Improve Communication (CreateSpace 2017), Successful Nurse Communication (F.A. Davis 2015), and Confident Voices (CreateSpace 2009). Find more of her stories at Confident Voices in Healthcare.

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