Collegiality: The Foundation of Teamwork - Do Nurses Need Collegiality Guidelines?


Published: 12 February 2017

What are the consequences for a team when one or more of the team members’ can’t manage their emotions?

When they behave uncivilly, react with anger and generally have a lack of regard for their colleagues’ feelings?

Most of us have had an experience like this. These people don’t value collegiality and do damage to any attempt to build a cohesive team. They seem to believe that they are the exception and that the rules of civility and good workplace behaviour do not apply to them!

Do nurses need collegiality guidelines?

Perhaps it is seen as such a big problem in nursing because we expect our care and respect for the individual to go beyond our patient care, and extend to how we treat each other in the workplace. It’s clear that respect, kindness and collegiality amongst nurses continues to be a problem all over the world.

While Australian collegiality guidelines are embedded in our Code of Ethics published by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (2017), the Finnish Nurses Association have developed a Nurses’ Collegiality Guidelines document (2014).

Chitty and Black’s Collegial Behaviour states that collegial behaviour is: ‘The promotion of a supportive and healthy work environment, cooperation and recognition of interdependence among members of the nursing profession is the essence of collegiality’ (Meighanson 2012).

Collegiality embodies all those behaviours that people outside the nursing profession espouse nurses for – kindness, compassion, respect, teamwork, service to others – but all too often the workplace for nurses is ridden with bad behaviours of incivility, belittling criticism, unkindness and performance appraisals given poorly.

The Finnish collegiality guidelines state:

‘The purpose of collegiality guidelines is to support collegiality among nurses in their daily work. The guidelines obligate us to work collegially with one another. Our collegiality as nurses is an equal and reciprocal relationship between members of the profession. It supports our professional work, and aims to achieve a common objective – the best patient care possible. Collegiality influences the profession’s internal cohesion and status in society.’


A great mission statement… but the elephant in the room is: how do we get nurses to decide to choose collegial behaviour rather than behaviour that is damaging to their colleagues and the workplace and patient care?

nurse collegiality guidelines

According to the Finnish Nurses Association collegiality guidelines:

1. Collegiality is Based on Professional Ethics

  • We respect and esteem our colleagues
  • We treat our colleagues fairly
  • We trust our colleagues and are trustworthy ourselves
  • We comprise a unified profession

2. Communication is Collegial

  • We speak about and to our colleagues respectfully and politely
  • Communication between us is open, honest and confidential
  • We give and receive constructive feedback
  • We defend and support colleagues in unfair or difficult situations
  • As nurses, we create a working community in which grievances and conflicts can be dealt with

3. Cooperation Strengthens skills

  • We recognise and acknowledge our colleague’s skills
  • We consult with our colleagues on a reciprocal basis
  • We share responsibility, decision making and duties equaly and fairly
  • We support our colleagues in work tasks and decision making
  • It is our responsibility as nurses to intervene in a colleague’s actions if they pose a threat to patient safety

4. Everyone is Responsible for Collegiality

  • We are responsible by our own example for the collegiality of the profession in and outside the workplace
  • Our nursing managers are responsible for creating structures that support collegiality
  • Our profession is responsible for teaching and fostering collegiality

In the Code of Ethics for Nurses in Australia, developed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, Values Statement 2 – Nurses values respect and kindness for self and for others, with regards to collegiality, states:

‘Respect for colleagues involves acknowledgement and respecting their knowledge, experience, expertise and insights. It includes practicing kindness and modelling consideration and care towards each other: adopting collaborative approaches to person-centred care; and, taking into account the informed views, feelings, preferences and attitudes of colleagues. Dismissiveness, indifference, manipulativeness and bullying are intrinsically disrespectful and ethically unacceptable.’


Emotional intelligence training is being used in major organisations as staff development to improve workplace culture. In nursing and the larger healthcare workforce, developing emotional intelligence would help.

The following two domains of emotional intelligence developed by Daniel Goleman (1996) are vital for promoting collegial behaviour among the nursing workforce:


  • Emotional awareness: you recognise your emotions as they occur and you appreciate the effects they have on you and others
  • Accurate self-assessment: you acknowledge and take measures to improve when your behaviour is not satisfactory or acceptable workplace behaviour
  • Self-confidence: you build your self-confidence by improving yourself and not by diminishing others


  • Self-control: you know how to keep disruptive and unhelpful impulses in check
  • Trustworthiness: people can trust you to be fair, kind and behave with integrity
  • Conscientiousness: you hold yourself to a high standard in your interactions with your colleagues
  • Adaptability: you readily consider others’ opinions and are flexible in reaching outcomes
  • Innovation: you are able to adjust to changes in approach and new information

Having a high level of emotional intelligence allows you to artfully negotiate through the emotional complexities of relating well with others in the workplace. The success of our interactions with our patients, our colleagues and other healthcare workers is immeasurably enhanced by a high degree of emotional intelligence. Every interaction we have is an opportunity to step up and use language and emotions that improve the workplace and achieve greater outcomes for patients.

It is vital to learn emotional intelligence for the welfare of our patients and the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues. Organisations (and individuals) must invest some time and energy in developing skills that support, develop and champion each other so that collegiality is the norm and not the exception in the workplace. Our behaviour and attitude is a reflection of our thoughts and emotions.

Understanding ourselves and our emotions and being able to create behaviour that is appropriate is an important skill for promoting collegiality, happiness and career success.

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Portrait of Janette Cooper
Janette Cooper

Janette Cooper is a registered nurse, currently working as a gastroenterology procedure nurse at Noarlunga Hospital. She has a Bachelor of Nursing, a Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management from Flinders University, and a certificate in Gastroenterology Nursing from The Queensland University of Technology. In 2012 she began a life coaching course with The Coaching Institute in Melbourne. It has allowed her to combine her two passions of nursing and personal development. She divides her time between gastroenterology nursing and promoting personal development and leadership by means of frequently published articles through Ausmed, leadership presentations and workshops and coaching health professionals wanting to develop their leadership potential. See Educator Profile