• Series: A Thriving Practice Culture

    Part 3: Build Connections

    Family physician Mark Greenawald, MD, FAAFP, of Carilion Clinic Family and Community Medicine in Virginia, believes that a thriving practice culture—a workplace that is respectful, uplifting, and fulfilling—is the product of choice rather than chance. In other words: If you want it, you have to help create it. In this three-part series, Greenawald offers some practical tips for how to get started.

    Connect with a team member. Then do it again.

    In a family medicine practice, relationships—both with patients and among colleagues—are paramount. According to Greenawald, a positive practice culture directly results from collegiality, which is the mutual respect and common purpose shared by team members. Collegiality shapes a practice’s identity, gives more meaning to the work, provides an outlet for stress, and helps support well-being.

    No one can single-handedly create an atmosphere of collegiality in a practice, but each member of the team can find small ways to foster supportive relationships at work. And while a coffee or lunch break with a colleague is worthwhile, know that your interactions don’t have to be time intensive to promote community.

    The key to authentic workplace connections is to make them personal. “Find your own signature way to check in with staff,” Greenawald recommends. He offers a few examples:

    • Every day, when he goes to the front office to check his mailbox, Greenawald gives the front office staff a round of applause to thank them for their work that day.
    • As Greenawald walks down the hallway at work, he doles out high fives and fist bumps to staff. “Science says physical connection matters,” he explains. “We feel acknowledged not just by the words we’re given, but by the physical gestures we receive.”
    • In Greenawald’s clinic, team members take turns putting up a quote of the day on a whiteboard to amuse or inspire each other.

    Greenawald says, “It’s things like this that break up the day and make people realize that the business we do is important, but it doesn’t all have to be business.”  


    More from Greenawald

    Written by AAFP editorial staff.

    Mark H. Greenawald, MD, FAAFP, is Vice Chair for Academic Affairs and Professional Development, Carilion Clinic Department of Family and Community Medicine, and an associate professor of family and community medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia. He is on faculty at Carilion Clinic’s family medicine residency program, chairs the Carilion Clinic physician well-being committee, and serves as the director for the American Academy of Family Physician’s (AAFP’s) Chief Resident Leadership Development Program.