Build Relationships to Build the Team

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Last summer, I had the privilege of participating in a medical mission trip to Guatemala. The team was made up of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, cooks, translators, and a pastor—me. It was exciting to be part of what God was doing in this beautiful and yet broken country. Everyone on the team had an area of expertise and the title to go along with it. Patients were eager for the healing touch of each member of the group: the brilliance of the surgeons, the skill of the anesthesiologists, the wisdom and efficiency of the nurses, the prayers of the faithful. All the elements seemed to be in place for a successful week.

But there was trouble in paradise.

The nurses in our pre-op area developed a bit of a turf war. There were three Americans, two Spaniards, and one Guatemalan, speaking three different languages, with different training, experience, and ideas about how to do things. Each one wanted to do it her own way.

In our work, we are trained to look out for ourselves in order to achieve our goals, even at the cost of the effectiveness. The scramble for territory, achievement, excellence, and fame can leave us lonely and isolated, as well as less productive.

My job was to pray with patients and their families in the pre-op area as they waited for surgery. So I watched the drama unfold between the nurses.

The Guatemalan nurse declared her territory, displaying an officious and resentful attitude, especially toward the Americans. She clearly didn’t like us being there. At first, the other nurses avoided her and tried to work in a vacuum. They ran into roadblock after roadblock, not knowing where to find supplies, how to use the foreign equipment, or where to find help in an emergency.

Then the youngest, least experienced American nurse sensed the problem and approached the Guatemalan nurse. The American spent time with her, asked her advice in halting, broken Spanish, and tried to get to know her. Lizz recognized that she needed this woman to be on their team. After all, the Guatemalan nurse worked in that hospital day in and day out, with every team that came through there.

We had invaded her territory, and we needed to respect her.

As Lizz built a relationship with her, the nurse's attitude relaxed. She and Lizz were soon working efficiently and smoothly together. The whole atmosphere in the pre-op area warmed up and everything fell into place. We became a team, working together to bring healing to the people under our care.

We each diminished our own personal need to achieve and be important, so we could work together with those around us. The entire pre-op staff was more successful because these two nurses created an atmosphere of camaraderie and teamwork.

They figured out the secret to success . . . no one goes it alone.