The Civility Around Us…

 In Nurses Weekly

While the operating room can sometimes be alive with banter, on one particular orthopedic case, the room was uncharacteristically still. It was during this case that I noticed the default verbal exchanges of the room. For every item I needed to toss onto the field, the scrub technician, Carmela, said a “please” and “thank you,” followed by my “you’re welcome.”

On this quiet day in the OR, these polite, reflex-like utterances rose to the fore of my consciousness, and I thought: these simple words—the ones we learn in kindergarten—are the building blocks of civilized behavior. In our workplace, they serve as a reminder that we appreciate the role each of us plays on the team.

Just one week before, at the end of what seemed like a very long PACU shift, a colleague thanked me for helping her with a patient earlier in the day. What struck me was that even after a practically dizzying day of pediatric ENT, this colleague was taking mental inventory of the kindness she had received. I left that day thinking even more of her and on the next day reminded myself to pay that gratitude forward. As Healthy Nurses we are engaged in improving quality of life for not just ourselves, but by setting an example, helping to recognize and nurture the good we see around us. When there is a dearth of civility in the healing environment, we need to recognize what’s happening and step up to be the arbiters of change.

In a 2002 lecture, P.M. Forni, a Johns Hopkins professor, champion of Civility and author of “Choosing Civility,” pointed out that “it’s not just about form and formality. It’s about quality of life. It requires respect for human life and the ability to perceive human life as valuable.” It should be easy for us to champion civility when we, as nurses are so aligned with the concept of respect for human life.

Especially with Thanksgiving and the theme of “gratitude” approaching, let’s all remember to set the example of “please and thank you” and before we leave work, to take inventory of the kindness of others. A little gratitude goes a long way. It also sets the tone for a more civil environment.

As a little light reading on the topic of Civility, I’m recommending a great little article in American Nurse Today from November 2015: Conversations to inspire and promote a more civil workplace:

Do you choose civility in your workplace? Write to the Healthy Nurse, Healthy New Jersey Team at to let us know how you promote civility in your workplace, and you will have to chance to win the book Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace by Christine Porath.


Lisa Ertle, B.A., R.N., and the Healthy Nurse, Healthy New Jersey Team.


Jania, R. (2002, November 15). P.M. Forni calls for civility now. Retrieved from:

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