Small Talk Can be a Big Deal
There are so many instances where small talk
is practiced regularly in the various nursing units. Small talk is unescapable: in the elevator, in the lobby, in the café... everywhere. The real benefit to small talk isn't what's said; it's when relationships are built over time.
If your shift starts at 0700, then chances are you are going to see the same people day in and day out. Why not take the opportunity to chat about the weather or the traffic, or any other inconsequential topic? A great opener might be, "Have you had any time to watch TV lately?" This gives you a sense of the person's interests as opposed to presuming things about the person. After all, that's what small talk is: conversation about nothing important, right?
Building relationships with the community you are a part of is invaluable to your health (physical and mental), and frankly, it passes the time as you are ascending to the upper floor of the facility. But, does the small talk have to end there? Often it is continued with various degrees on the floor with colleagues—and patients as well.
If there is an educational offering, often staff members have an opportunity to socialize prior to the beginning. Depending on the specific area in nursing (and the source), the percentage of men involved can be around 9%. So for an educational offering with 10 staff members, that means you may notice the one male colleague. As the small talk begins or as it really begins to gain momentum, keep in mind that male colleagues may have very different interests. They might not, but having been subject to what seems like endless small talk, waiting for the educational offering to begin, I can attest to a total mental disengagement of the conversation going on. Instead of small talk having value for connecting humans and improving engagement—which it truly can—a socially isolating situation can be created inadvertently.
Communication and connection with each other in the working environment can literally mean the difference between solid patient care and not-so-great patient care. Creating staff connections and a welcome, engaging environment starts with small talk. If we feel connected to our workplace, we are more likely to effectively communicate and share our concerns and help each other out. Doing that ultimately helps our patients.
As we do when working with patients from different cultures, the best thing to do may be to admit our ignorance of the culture and ask genuine questions about the person. In this case, instead of presuming those male colleagues are interested in the same stereotypical small talk issue, try asking if they had a chance to watch TV lately.