Hi, we are Ayesha and Abhishek, IMGs from Bangladesh and India, and NHS practising doctors. In today's blog, we will provide you with some essential 10 top tips for building meaningful relationships with colleagues and surviving in your workplace.
Why building relationships is so important?
Congratulations on starting your new job in the NHS. You have been welcomed warmly by everyone, and shown around the department. Everything seems to be going just the way you had expected and then as time passes, you feel that welcoming attitude is decreasing. People just talk to you about work, just say a formal 'hi' and 'bye', and go about with their usual workplace chores. You don’t seem to be able to get along with them and start to feel lonely. This is something that a lot of NHS junior doctors have experienced. This is something that I went through and slowly I understood, that Interpersonal Skills tested during the PLAB exam and MRCP PACES are not just for the sake of it. It is of utmost essence to survive in your workplace.
Being a doctor is not just about knowledge and skills, it’s about how we communicate them with our patients and colleagues. In Britain, there is a strong emphasis on collaboration with the patient, involving them in their care and working as a team. Unlike in some other cultures, British people expect to be involved in their care and often need to build trust with the doctor before they respect their information and decisions. Communication skills and the ability to build rapport are therefore paramount.
10 TOP TIPS
We have compiled a list of suggestions which would be a good platform to build on your way towards building a strong relationship with your colleagues. Remember that your 'colleagues' in the UK is an umbrella term which means that unlike possibly back in your home countries, it includes doctors, nurses, therapists, dieticians, ward clerks, site manager/bed managers (if you are a registrar and are responsible for admitting and discharging patients).
1. A nice 'hello' and a genuine smile
It is a baseline that we start with but it's important to take that extra mile and ask 'how are you?'. It goes a long way and you might start a good conversation with the person. Also, remember that it is very important to respect each other personal space and maintain boundaries. Do not ask personal questions (age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation) unless you are good friends with your colleague.
2. Offer help
Help your co-workers if they are struggling to finish their jobs. You might as well finish your bits and finish in time, but if you see your colleague swamped with jobs or struggling to finish, offer them your help. Remember at the end of the day, it's teamwork. Remember to say 'thank you' and 'sorry' - that makes a huge difference as it shows our colleagues that we acknowledge their work. These simple things help us build a positive working environment with light levels of collaboration, trust and accountability.
3. Team bonding is important
Try to initiate good gestures and show appreciation, for example, you can bring small snacks or chocolates for your team. When you go for lunch, ask people if they would like to join you. If you are making tea for yourself, ask if your colleague(s) want a cuppa. Visit the doctor’s mess - it’s a good place to socialize. Attend the get-together events with colleagues like evening socials, etc. Not only this will make your team more friendly, but it also encourages personal growth, increases job satisfaction, and reduces stress.
A very important piece of advice - stay positive. People like surrounding themselves with positive people. Positivity is contagious and people are naturally drawn to those who demonstrate good vibes. It creates special energy and will help you enhance your relationships with colleagues.
4. Maintain professionalism
Maintain professionalism while speaking with colleagues and never be rude to anyone, no matter how much you are annoyed with them. Have conversations with the therapists and other members of the multi-disciplinary team. Their clearance is also needed to discharge a patient safely. Try handing over to the charge nurse once you have seen the patients. It's usually done by the registrars but sometimes you can be expected to do it.
5. Offer to teach your junior colleagues
The most exciting part about being a teacher for your junior colleagues is that you get to teach something you truly love and pass your knowledge on to the next generation of doctors. Try to create a fun engaging environment when you deliver teaching sessions to your juniors.
'Personally, I sometimes ask my SHO and F1 whether they have any questions for me or want any teaching from me. Suggest doing case-based discussions (CBDs) or direct observation of precedural skills (DOPS).' - Abhishek
6. Be proactive
Being proactive at work means taking care of yourself and things around you, as well as developing good habits because you realise your workload is a product of things you do every day. Your proactivity demonstrates that you enjoy learning and are open to new information.
7. Ask questions
Right from the first days of your new job be intentional about gathering information to build your awareness of things happening around you: ward rounds, clinical tasks that need to be done, referrals, paperwork etc. Learn more about your work environment as much as you can, mistakes that happened in the past and suggestions for improvement. Becoming more proactive through awareness and action will allow you to make better use of your time, improve your work relationships, and effectively achieve your professional goals.
'When we start to work in NHS, we feel overwhelmed and sometimes even scared because of a completely new environment, but also new people and new cultures. It may feel a bit challenging at the beginning, but trust me if you have good relationships with your colleagues your workload will get much easier to handle. You will also feel less lonely as you will find great people and friends'. - Ayesha
8. Develop good listening skills
Use your body language to show your interest in what someone is trying to tell you. When actively listening to your colleague, make eye contact. A simple smile and the occasional nod will show that you are interested and engaged. If you're in a busy hospital area, focus more on the colleague you're with and less on what's happening around you. Do not interrupt. It can be tempting to finish someone's sentence to show you understand their message, but it can come off as rude. Remember that listening builds trust. If you interrupt your colleague even with good intentions it takes away to fully express your colleague's feelings or opinions. To be sure that you will not interrupt, always pause for a few seconds before replying. Also, you don't have to necessarily agree with your colleague, but imagine how they feel. Put yourself in another person's shoes to fully understand their point of view.
9. Make time for everybody, not just your seniors
Do not focus all of your time and effort trying to impress your seniors, while ignoring junior colleagues and tasks you think to be of low importance. These things are important to someone, so don’t be dismissive. This can be very challenging in a new role where there is pressure to impress. However, remember that a reputation is built across all levels, not just among your consultants. By establishing yourself as a reliable, helpful, and respectful team member among more junior staff, you will build long-lasting professional relationships.
10. Be positive
A very important piece of advice - stay positive no matter what. People like surrounding themselves with positive people. Positivity is contagious and people are naturally drawn to those who demonstrate good vibes. It creates special energy and will help you enhance your relationships with colleagues.
Need more tips?
Read our blogs for more advice and guidance:
If you have any questions about building relationships with colleagues, we would be happy to answer them at trewlink.com.
Dr Abhishek, ST3 Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Surrey &
Dr Ayesha, ST1 Psychiatry, London
Edited by: Julia