How to Find the Right Hospital Culture

By Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN - January 12, 2020
Categories: Culture

How to Find the Right Hospital Culture

Hospital culture can mean the difference between happy work life and a miserable one. In fact, a lousy culture-fit can extend its impacts beyond your time at work and into your personal life. For nurses and other healthcare professionals, it’s imperative to find a hospital culture that is a good fit. However, culture in healthcare is not one-size-fits-all. Let’s examine what contributes to a great hospital culture fit for you and how to find an employer with those attributes.

What is Hospital Culture or Work Culture?

According to Forbes:

Culture is the environment that surrounds us all the time. A workplace culture is the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.

Workplace culture is the cumulative experience that you and your peers experience while at work. It’s impacted by your colleagues but significantly controlled by your direct management and leadership. Many describe culture as a “feeling” or atmosphere exemplified in the workplace; however, a good culture is almost impossible to maintain without clearly defined guidelines. This means that a hospital’s culture should be synonymous with its values.

Good Workplace Culture


Although it’s not a hospital, one of the best examples of culture decks and documents is the Netflix Culture Deck. Their theme of the culture at Netflix is made clear in the first few paragraphs by stating:

Like all great companies, we strive to hire the best and we value integrity, excellence, respect, inclusion, and collaboration. What is special about Netflix, though, is how much we:

  1. encourage independent decision-making by employees

  2. share information openly, broadly, and deliberately

  3. are extraordinarily candid with each other

  4. keep only our highly effective people

  5. avoid rules

They later to go on to describe their core values of:

  • Judgment
  • Communication
  • Curiosity
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Selflessness
  • Innovation
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Impact

To most interesting part of the Netflix culture deck is their commitment to willingly turnover staff with a generous severance package if they do not pass the “keeper test.” This simple test is based on whether a manager would be willing to fight to keep an employee on staff. If they don’t pass, they are let go to find a better career and culture match.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic offers a short but impactful video about the culture of their organization. It gives the warm and fuzziness and would inspire any nurse to explore career opportunities further.

Culture in Healthcare

Workplace culture and hospital culture can almost be used interchangeably. The significant difference is a hospital’s culture extends to patients and impacts the experience they have when they receive care and or interact with the staff of a medical facility. This means a poor workplace culture in a hospital can actually harm people physically. Stressed out nurses who don’t feel valued or in alignment with their employer can make more mistakes and increase the already rising levels of nurse burnout.

What to Look for in a Good Hospital Culture

To determine whether a hospital has a good culture, you should examine their organizational principles, including their values, mission statements, vision statements, and so on. Forward-thinking organizations might even have a culture webpage, document, or constitution that outlines their core principles. Look for these things on a hospital’s website to find out if a hospital has a good culture.

Culture of Safety in Healthcare

Without a doubt, safety should be the primary guiding principle of any healthcare organization. This extends to both patients and staff alike. You should look for information about how the organization values safety and ensure that it includes information around staff safety and protection. You want to ensure that your employer is just as concerned for your safety as the patients in your care. This includes protecting you for violent patients, staff, or visitors.

Culture of Ownership in Healthcare

Hospitals that work towards building a culture of ownership in healthcare empower their staff to shape decision making and policy. This is often facilitated through employee lead teams and committees. Ownership culture allows staff at every level to have an impact on the success of the organization. A culture that relies on empowering staff to evolve organizational standards and practice shows faith in employees. No one wants to work for a hospital that doesn’t value the input and leadership abilities of its staff.

Trust, but Verify

The Russian proverb popularized by Ronald Regan, “Trust, but verify” is an excellent way to describe the culture investigation process. You should intimately review any documents, webpages, or other information you can find about a hospital’s culture, but don’t take it at face value.

Just Ask People

One easy way to get a candid perspective of a hospital’s culture is to connect with a handful of staff on Linkedin that work for the organization you are exploring. These should be people at the same level you are interested in obtaining. A VP or executive leader could potentially give a very different response to the culture question that a staff nurse. Make a connection and send a short message something along the lines of:

Hi <First Name>,

I’ve been exploring opprotuntinities to work at XYZ. I’d like to get your candid perspective on the work culture.

Do you feel the culture aligns with the culture documents/website?

Would you recomend working there  to a friend?

Thank you for your time.

This method, though a little more direct than many are comfortable with, should provide a good perspective of the work-life you can expect.

During the Interview

A great place to ask questions about hospital culture is during the interview process. You’ll often have interviews with several different people and get their unique perspective of the culture. If this is an in-person interview, be sure to pay close attention to body language to gauge their candor. Though it’s not common, it’s entirely possible a hospital desperate for nurses could embellish their work culture to land a quality nurse.

Can Healthcare Be Fixed by Improving Culture?

Many people feel that healthcare in the United States is broken. High costs and poor outcomes leave many to question how the world’s most dominant economic and military power does not also deliver the best care in the world. Many speculate that one of the major problems in healthcare is broken culture throughout the country and hospital by hospital.

Dr. Curtis Mock and Stephanie Bartz state:

Our culture is suffering because we’ve tolerated working environments that contradict our human need for relationships, connection and respect. Even fleeting fulfillment derived from patient interactions isn’t enough to curtail external, negative forces.

Although working in healthcare is considered fulfilling because of the opportunities to make positive impacts on patients, it can all be undone by a toxic culture. Because of this, it’s more important than ever for nurses, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team to focus on culture when selecting the right place to work.

Let the Right Employer Come to You

As a skilled nurse,  your talents and expertise are valuable to hospitals. You know they can’t run without you. So why is it up to you to chase down employers and pursue your next opportunity.

It shouldn’t be.

The should be coming to you.

If you want to get out of the rat race of job boards and endless applications, Doddle Now is the answer.

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