The health care profession is known for being a high-stress place in which doctors, nurses and other professionals are often put into uncomfortable situations. Disagreements between doctors and nurses are common, and nurses often struggle to create positive relationships with difficult patients. On very hard days, nurses may even find themselves at each other’s throats as their stress threatens to get out of hand. Creating healthy, connected relationships requires focus and determination. It will never happen by chance. These five tips will help you improve your current relationships with colleagues while building new ones simultaneously.

Build Meaningful Relationships

Even during 12-hours shifts, it can be difficult to focus on building meaningful relationship with your coworkers. You are all most likely busy dealing with the endless demands of doctors’ orders, sick patients and charting. There can be little time to connect about your personal lives or to share your feelings over what is happening on the floor. Even your short breaks will not provide you with the time you need. Instead, you must carve out time outside your usual work hours to connect. This could be something as little as 10 minutes prior to the beginning of your shift, or it could be something as major as starting a work bowling league or hosting a holiday party for your floor.

Practice Empathy

Working in health care is hard on the emotions. Even if you are not having a particularly rough day, one of your coworkers most likely is. Empathy ensures that the other person feels heard and understood. Using empathy, you will be better able to understand your coworkers’ emotions and learn what motivates them. It builds self-awareness as well as a level of trust between individuals.

Respect Others’ Opinions

Health care is not a black-and-white science. Instead, many professionals have vastly differing opinions on how to handle a myriad of dilemmas, including working with new research, treating patients with uncertain diagnoses and managing time. Although you may feel that your method or idea is clearly the best, you must respect the opinions of others when it is not a life-or-death situation and when it is not obviously going to create negative consequences for a patient’s health.

Deal Wisely with Conflict

In some cases, disagreements are sure to arise even when you are trying to approach each situation with respect. To deal with this, try using “I” statements to avoid casting blame and alienating coworkers. In addition, conversations should remain civil at all times. As meaningful relationships are built over time, conflict should decrease on your unit.

Be a Strong Leader

Whether or not you are in an actual managerial role, you can still function as a leader on your floor. People tend to mirror what they see, and if they see you working with confidence, compassion and respect, chances are high that your coworkers will act the same way.

Good communication in a working group must be built on mutual trust, respect and support. Even when difficult times arise, these positive qualities will smooth over the difficulties until colleagues are able to work through their struggles and come out stronger on the other side. As you work to overcome relational difficulties in your health care workplace, remember to act as a leader would no matter what position you hold.