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The influence of culture

After working in a department for a while, you can begin to take all of the subtle cultural knowledge that you have accumulated for granted.

Remember that when new members join your team from outside of this culture, they are trying to learn these new cultural norms alongside doing their day-job and may fear asking for help.

Video case study 3 (23mins) from the RCOG eLearning module on improving workplace behaviour explores this concept.

The BMA also has an insightful webinar (free for members) which aims to develop sensitivity and skills for cultural communication.

Increasing your own appreciation of this cultural transition will give context to your interaction with staff who are new to a department or new to the NHS.  With this in mind you may interpret their behaviours differently.

Those that have lived and worked outside of the UK have the additional challenge of adjusting to British culture.  They will have additional stressors such a need to arrange housing, bank accounts, healthcare and other practicalities.

Practical tips

  • Get to know your team before challenging interactions occur; where have they come from, what is their background and do they have any specific needs?
  • Learn the names of your team members correctly
  • Try to consider how cultural influences and experience may be impacting behaviours
  • During this period of adjustment acknowledging this and supporting them develops feelings of inclusion and value.
  • Consider supporting new team members with periods of shadowing, mentors and signposting support available.
  • Keep your eye out for the RCOG’s new eLearning module on "Doctors new to the UK".

Case example of the consequence of negative behaviour related to being new to a workplace culture:

‘I am an SHO in O&G and an international medical graduate.  On my second or third day in the speciality a registrar singled me out in the operating room upon seeing me scrub in. They knew it was my first time assisting in this particular procedure. They shouted at me and made me scrub a total of 3 times once even slapping my hands so that I would have to do it again.

It was my first emergency theatre experience and there was no attempt to teach me any specifics or show me where anything was. A scrub nurse showed me where everything was in the end. The midwives and theatre staff were also very kind and reassuring.

It was hard as I was new to the dept and speciality. I didn’t feel that I could report it. I made sure I knew where everything was in any theatre I was in in future as the humiliation was something I wanted to avoid. Professionally I never let someone speak to me that way but I was new and didn’t want to stir up any problems.’