Friendships are invaluable for many people, but doubly so for healthcare professionals. Friends can act as confidants for our deepest concerns, company at the happiest moments of our lives, and anchors that give us different perspectives in troubled times. Conversely, loneliness or social isolation has been linked to higher levels of stress and depression by institutions such as the American Psychological Association. In a stressful and demanding profession like healthcare, friendships inside the workplace are all but essential. Sometimes, a pleasant conversation with your colleagues, during lunch, is exactly what you need to lighten your mood. That being said, making friends in a healthcare setting comes with its own unique challenges.
Why Do Healthcare Professionals Need Friends?
Unlike most professions, HCPs must confront mortality frequently. For nurses, doctors, and physicians in the ER or ICU, these stakes are encountered on a regular basis. Even on an “uneventful” shift, you may walk past patients fighting for their lives or geriatric patients at their end-of-life care. It is a unique and mentally draining part of the job.
Though friends outside of work also matter, it is hard to convey the HCP experience to someone from the outside looking in. Friends in the workplace have invaluable insight and can relate to your struggle on a deeper level. Additionally, they may also provide helpful and actionable advice from an informed perspective.
With friends, work becomes less stressful and more pleasant… Even if you are not necessarily “friends” with everyone, you want to be on good terms with your co-workers. When you get along with your department, chemistry and communication become far easier to develop. For practical and personal reasons, friendships in healthcare are irreplaceable.
How Do I Make Friends in Healthcare?
Whether you are a rookie or a natural introvert, we all start somewhere. If you want to make friends and put yourself out there, then you have to take advantage of the opportunities available to you:
A good first impression is invaluable. Co-workers naturally want to get to know you better, if you start things off on the right foot. Like with most things, the little things matter. If you are new to your workplace, you want to introduce yourself to your new team members one by one. Breaking the ice and building a repertoire takes time. Make an effort to converse with them, and ask work-related questions to facilitate a natural two-way conversation. Good questions along this vein include:
● How long have you worked in this facility?
● What is your role in this facility?
● How would you describe the culture?
Be a Good Listener
People want to feel valued. We naturally prefer talking to people who are interested in our feelings, and what we have to say. This is why being a good listener is invaluable when it comes to building friendships. When someone is talking, you want to provide your undivided attention as they speak. Reflect on the points they bring up and ask for clarifications, to show them that you are listening. Give them honest feedback, and pay attention to nonverbal cues to determine when to speak. You want to strike a balance between offering your insights and giving them the space to express themselves.
Join Social Gatherings
Instead of turning down an invite from a co-worker, why not accept one and see where it takes you? They want to know you better, by spending time with you outside work. This could be a movie night, a party, or even a beach gathering. This could be the chance you needed to break the ice. This goes both ways too. If you have built a rapport with someone, do not hesitate to invite them for some lunch or coffee during your break time. In general, a lunch break is an organic way to spend time with co-workers you are interested in.
In time, friendships will form. You will gravitate towards the people and personalities that you are compatible with. As long as you continuously put yourself out there and stick true to yourself, friends in healthcare who genuinely care about you and value your presence will come in time. Be honest about yourself, within reason. Try not to bring up any controversial or confrontational talking points, but be true to yourself on every other front.