by David Bierwirth-ST, CRCST, CHL
Group cohesiveness. What do these words mean to you? As defined, group cohesiveness occurs when members of a group enjoy strong social relationships and a shared sense of identity. Individuals are proud to describe themselves as group members and see group membership as important. In the context of Sterile Processing, this can present itself as a multi-armed or branch of the family tree. Cohesiveness is a constant goal of all staff involved and management has the obligation of keeping the department running smoothly.
If you are reading this article, I will assume you have worked in the Sterile Processing space. This department is composed of a group of dedicated people who all have the same goal, providing exceptional patient care in the reprocessing of sterile instruments to industry standards used in medical procedures.
The composition of so many Sterile Processing Departments consists of groups, and cohesiveness is always multifaceted in the sense of age and social norms held by those ages. This age and social norms are also referred to as a person’s cohort group.
My first experience in SPD was in a US Army hospital in the 1980s. The staff composition was unusual because most of the Sterile Processing Technicians were under 25 years old. Middle management averaged 35-40 years old, and senior leaders 50+. The majority of the Sterile Processing Techs were of the same cohort. Today, we usually see the opposite composition in SPD across the county. These usually consist of two to four cohort groups of varying ages and social norms.
In a harmonious group, members are committed to their tasks and take pride in the output and achievements of the group. Members of cohesive groups deal with conflict openly and constructively. Cohesive groups increase job satisfaction and reduce stress because they offer social support to team members.
The rub or conflict occurs as a department when the aforementioned cohesiveness is missing or broken into further subgroups. Group norms are the explicit and implicit rules that govern the values, actions, and behavior of group members. This can lead to groupthink that occurs when everyone goes along with the prevailing thought and does not know what to “rock the boat” or cause friction within the group.
The prevailing management thought in group cohesiveness is a manager who is creative, open to suggestions, available, non-threatening to and from staff, and lastly very empathic. It is a manager’s role to get out of the team’s way. The manager must trust team members by providing sufficient autonomy, which in turn will build confidence. These management traits will keep the cohesiveness of the group as a prized goal in the quest for excellent patient care.