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Nurses know that it’s humanly impossible to care for patients in today’s complex world alone. Successful nurses have evolved beyond the days of, “my patients” versus “your patients” (although, unfortunately, there are still some dysfunctional units and nurses who practice this way!!). Successful nurses recognize that it takes a village, like they say.

I recently read an excerpt from a book about wolves titled, The Wisdom of Wolves, and immediately saw the application to nursing practice. Here’s the deal: Wolves are more devoted and committed to their family and community than any other mammal on earth. Nothing will stop a wolf – not even the threat of harm or death – from protecting the pack. Each pack member takes full responsibility for supporting and protecting every pack member – no matter what.
Imagine if nurses behaved this way – protecting their pack. That would mean, every new nurse would be nurtured, supported and protected from harm; every patient and their family members would be included in the pact – every nurse then would take full responsibility for their care; every nurse would go out of his/her way to ensure the success of his/her coworker.
Imagine a world if nurses behaved like wolves.
I was fortunate to get a glimpse of working with a wolf pack a few days ago. I still work casual on a step-down unit. I was working with another nurse and her student in a 5 bed mini step-down unit (it’s a part of the larger unit but with more critical patients). In this mini unit, you don’t have a nursing assistant – you have to rely on each other. Throughout the day, I was amazed by the pack behavior of both this nurse and her student (I would hire her in a heartbeat!!!).
Here are a few examples of how they demonstrated wolf behavior:
·      I had a pt. in isolation who needed repositioned and cleaned. I asked for their help but then my other pt. asked for pain medication. I told my co-workers to give me a minute, however, as soon as I gave my pt. her pain meds, I saw that they were already gowned and gloved, in “my” patient’s room, taking care of it. Done!
·      The student told me my pt. was incontinent (all over the bed). I immediately asked if she could help me (the pt was a large person) but she said her and the other nurse already took care of it. Done!
·      Walked my patient to the bathroom – twice.
·      I was getting a transfer – a pt. who needed more critical care. Not only did they help me get the pt settled, but my co-worker noticed the pts meds were due and GAVE THEM for me!!!
We were a pack of wolves that day – protecting and supporting each other AND taking full responsibility for our extended pack (patients). Kudos to April (nurse) and Elissa (student nurse) for understanding that the only way nurses can provide high quality compassionate care to patients is if we treat our co-workers like wolves treat theirs.
Are you working with wolves? Would love to read your comments.
Take care and stay connected.
For more great tips, make sure you “like” me on Facebook,”follow” me on Twitter and YouTube and subscribe to my blog. Also, check out my new book on nurse-to-nurse bullying and my new eBook titled, Survive and Thrive: A guide helping new nurses succeed!  

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  1. awesome and inspiring post….except that last bullet- not sure I agree w/ giving meds to a patient that I was not assigned- I understand the gesture, however, considering the hectic environments we work in (the ones you so eloquently describe here) going that particular extra step could be a step in the wrong direction.

  2. Thanks for the great comments Monica! Regarding the last bullet…didn't include all of the details but she did coordinate with me first. You bring up a good point! When we help each other, we always need to coordinate first!

    Thanks so much

  3. I must have been very spoiled, because this is the culture (22 years as a nurse) I have always had the opportunity to work in. Perhaps it was because when I first started, our units did not have CNAs or LPNs–all RN staff. Would you not do anything your patient's need, if your co-worker was busy? Of course, you would coordinate with them important cares, but leave someone wet or dirty because they were not your patient?

  4. What a great experience. I too have had the pleasure of working in that type of shared environment. I have also worked (for a brief time) on a unit that was so overworked that any nurse with a free minute was not going to give it to someone else. I believe in a team environment because you can't provide great care to a group of patients without help.

    Even when a unit does not have a team approach environment, I still offer my help and work on the knowledge that we will all need help at some point. When I worked on a unit that did not have the "wolf pack" environment, I offered help to another nurse who I could see was very stressed, I was surprised by her reaction. I just offered to hang an antibiotic for her and she stopped in her tracks, stared at me with her mouth open, then said "are you serious." I wasn't sure if she was joking, but then realized she had just never had anyone offer help. That was truly one of the saddest days of my nursing career.

  5. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I love that you "get it". It doesn't matter if others don't behave as a team….that you still need to do the right thing and pitch in and help. Yes….so sad that many nurses are shocked – even apprehensive when someone offers to help.

    I'm hoping to change that!

    Warmest regards

  6. As a new nurse, 18 months, and working in the emergency department this is the culture I tried to create with another new nurse. It worked so much better and at the end of the day we had bettered the lives of double the amount of patients and we left with our sanity. Unfortunately, we were met with a lot of resistance from the "seasoned" nurses and agency nurses. Still a work in progress, but I do love this vision.

  7. Thanks for commenting. Keep trying and don't give up! You and other nurses deserve to work in supportive and nurturing environments. By staying positive and keeping your vision, you are changing the environment…really!

    I'm cheering for your success!

  8. I sometimes feel like I work with Wolves in the ED and other times not, but in retrospect, I think the critical care areas nurture the pack behavior. I have a dream that someday we will form a pack and honor our profession as do fire fighters and law enforcement and not worry about the latest scrub color or design.

  9. Thanks Don. I have the same dream! Doing my best to make that happen..even if it's just one nurse – one unit – one organization at a time. Just imagine how our profession would change – for the better!


  10. The worst kind of management seeks to 'keep the nurses divided and fighting amongst themselves.' I have worked in the best 'pack' type of unit-all RNs who were devoted to 'our' own mission: to be the Best of the Best among our peers (the other critical care units), have the respect of our surgeons and consultants and give the BEST patient care that we could possibly give!
    Management, in my opinion, is the worst enemy for nursing solidarity and excellence when they practice Systematic Institutional Bullying.

  11. Hi GrannyRN
    Thanks for your comments. I've also seen some of the worst bullying by management! I wrote a blog post called "What if the bully is your boss" that received a lot of attention. Although you still have options, sometimes it's best to leave. So sad.

    I'm doing my best to change that 🙂

    Wishing you a great weekend!

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