Managing Professional Relationships


Published: 13 November 2019

Relationships are crucial to the development of your nursing career for a wide variety of reasons. Whether it’s seeking a new position, requesting a reference, learning new skills or developing camaraderie with your colleagues and supervisors: relationships are central to your life as a nursing professional.

In fact, relationships with your clinical and non-clinical peers matter as much to your career as your resume, social media presence, LinkedIn profile and interview skills. If you’re a superlative nurse clinician with a weak professional network and no colleagues to call upon when you need them most, your career can be hampered by these significant deficits.

Your relationships with other healthcare professionals also matter in terms of being happy in your workplace, engaging in productive and congenial interprofessional collaboration, and having a generally pleasant and growthful time.

Your Personal Brain Trust

If you want to advance your nursing career, having a robust network is one key to that process. Cultivating mutual positive regard between you and key players in your workplace - and in the wider healthcare arena - can have untold benefits.

For example, former colleagues, professors, preceptors, and supervisors make excellent references when you’re applying for a new position and need people who know you in a professional capacity to vouch for you, your work ethic and your skills.

As mentioned above, there’s nothing like being faced with a difficult career decision and having a plethora of knowledgeable people to whom you can turn for advice and support. In fact, you are also part of others’ professional networks, and you can serve the same purpose for them in a truly symbiotic way. In essence, your personal brain trust of respected colleagues is worth its weight in gold.

Healthcare professionals having a meeting

Successful Work Begins With Others

Working as a nurse can be stressful and isolating. You’re often on the run for 12 hours at a time, caring for patients, navigating crises and engaging in all manner of activities dictated by your position and responsibilities.

In a situation where you need assistance with a patient or advice on a medical order, the colleagues around you will happily support you if good relations are present. Remember that you yourself won’t necessarily want to help a nurse who’s nasty to you, but you’ll bend over backwards for someone you like and trust.

Good relationships also mean that your colleagues want to know how you are, will take the time to ask about your weekend, your recent vacation, or how your son is doing in his first year at university. This may seem frivolous in relation to your career, but being lonely and isolated without friendly faces at work usually translates into one unhappy nurse.

Beyond your nurse colleagues, you also need positive relationships with food service and custodial staff, physicians, surgeons, physiotherapists, administrators, etc. Being helpful, inquisitive and kind endears you to others, creating an environment wherein the inevitable stressors are more tolerable because you know others have your back, and you theirs.

That cafeteria worker you see almost every day when you grab a coffee is a potential ally if you manage that relationship well. The surgeon with whom you frequently collaborate will likely be more patient with your questions when there’s respectful communication and kindness between you. And don’t underestimate how camaraderie between you and key players in your workplace can lead to your opinions and ideas being more readily and respectfully considered; after all, if they know, like and trust you, why wouldn’t they want to hear what you have to say?

Success - climbing a ladder

Relationships Really Matter

As humans, we’re innately collaborative and community-minded. Granted, some of us greatly prefer solitude, but there are still times we need other people, even if we’re introverted. There are simply things we can’t do successfully in life without the support, input or encouragement of others.

Research has demonstrated that loneliness can have deleterious effects on our health. Therefore, if you spend 30 or more hours at your workplace each week, that means you likely see more of certain colleagues than you do some friends or family members. This is yet another reason why work relationships matter: your health depends on it.

In order to be as fulfilled and happy as possible in your nursing career, pay attention to relationships, even with non-clinical staff who are often seen as less important even when they serve truly vital functions. They should all matter to you, and hopefully you to them. Beyond patient care, that’s the humanness of nursing at its core, and that humanity should consistently be at the forefront of your keen nurse’s mind.


educator profile image
Keith Carlson View profile
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms---including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram - as well as at and Digital Doorway.