The benefits of team-building exercises in nursing

While many people may find it easy to start working as part of a team from the get-go, it’s not always as simple as it looks; building team camaraderie takes time and effort. When it comes to nursing, there will always be a need to have a strong support team on standby.

That’s where team-building exercises can help. While the concept of team building isn’t exclusive to nursing or healthcare, its components prove to be highly effective in engaging nurses with each other and may even help individual nurses to appreciate their roles a little deeper.

Let’s take a look at some of the basics behind team building, some examples of exercises nurses might try, and why they’re ultimately beneficial for the health of healthcare.

What are team-building exercises?

As the name suggests, team-building exercises help people learn how to work together more cohesively. They’re games and activities that encourage people to open up to each other and share experiences. They also provide fantastic chances for people to learn more about each other’s skills and what they bring to the table.

Team-building exercises have an unfair reputation among some people for being a little cheesy. However, they’ve proven ideal at helping people to break the ice and learn to build trust among each other. They can be particularly beneficial in environments where team members are working together for the very first time. Team-building is all about helping people to work better together. Nursing can be complex and challenging at times, but with a strong core network of support, individual nurses will always know they have someone to fall back on.

Exercises in team-building don’t have to take place in person, either. The online nursing qualifications offered by the reputable Spring Arbor University recognize the value of team building in nursing and include such activities in their program. These courses encourage students to work together, despite them potentially studying from locations that are hundreds of miles apart.  

What are some team-building exercises that nurses find useful?

Nurses often need team-building to help foster trust between each other and to help introduce newer members of a cohort into the workplace. There are plenty of great ways for nurses to break the ice—here are a handful of ideas that work well in practice.

Gratitude circles

Practicing gratitude is a worthwhile exercise for individuals’ mental health, but it also translates well as a team-building staple. Gratitude circles allow nurses to express thanks to each other, outwardly compliment each member of the team, foster trust, and help build self-worth.

This simple exercise is great for building confidence and reassuring nursing team members of their individual impacts on their organization. It’s a meaningful exercise, too, as it helps to create a sense of camaraderie that’s often vital in a busy healthcare environment. Nurses need to know that they have each other’s backs in fast-paced environments and complex situations. Gratitude circles are ideal for helping individuals achieve recognition beyond simply “doing the job well.”

These team-building exercises are great for keeping spirits high and for helping to boost focus at work. They also help to keep nurses working with team spirit in mind, leaving people feeling less like they’re alone and adrift.

Line leader

The line leader game is a fantastic team-building staple that revolves around nonverbal communication and body language. In this activity, nurses need to form a line ordered in a specific way, such as by years of service in healthcare, without communicating to each other what the specification for the line is.

Though a moderator in the game is allowed to speak, members of the line can’t talk or give hand signals—the moderator and players must work out the correct order for the secret category without receiving verbal instructions. This sounds like a complex game on paper, and while it can be tricky in practice, it’s a great way to help nurses practice their nonverbal cues and learn how to pick up on messages that aren’t necessarily obvious.


Roleplay, short of practicing on-site, is one of the best ways to prepare nurses for applying their knowledge. Throughout their studies, nurses may come across opportunities to roleplay with other students and demonstrate what they’ve learned. Nurses might also find that roleplay team building is ideal for helping team members form closer bonds.

Roleplay in a team-building context will help nurses understand how each team member reacts in certain scenarios. Members will take it, in turn, to portray patients and themselves in any given situation and will show others how they expect certain events to unfold. This exercise doubles as a great teaching moment for newer staff who may be finding their feet in both the healthcare industry and as part of a team. Sometimes, educators may use these exercises as part of their learning modules.

Roleplay is also great for those nurses who have a few years of experience behind them. They may already know how to handle some scenarios, but as team members change over the years, there are always new people to adapt to and work with. Studies have shown that roleplay can help nursing students with learning outcomes, too.

Off-site events

Team building events may stretch as far as social events off-site, such as day trips, sporting events, and even nights away. These events do not have to be strictly work-centric, though keeping professionalism in mind is key! These external events can help members of a nursing team to loosen up and get to know their fellow staff in a capacity outside of work. This can be highly beneficial for nurses to find out more about how each other communicates, which then translates well once back in a working environment.

Off-site events also provide a great opportunity for nurses to build self-worth. Nurses can bond with their peers and colleagues at these events and will therefore return to work feeling better valued and more open to working on team projects.

What are the benefits of team-building for nurses?

The ultimate aim of nursing team-building is to help teams come together and work as a single, supportive unit. In an industry and working environment where nurses often have to think on their feet and manage their own workloads, maintaining this team focus is vital.

However, there are other benefits that may not be so obvious at first. Let’s break these down.

Improved job satisfaction

The more a nurse feels part of a team, the more likely they will want to come to work—and therefore, job satisfaction improves overall. They’ll feel closer to their colleagues and will be clearer about their place in both the cohort and broader healthcare setting. The opposite of this is a nurse feeling adrift or unsupported. A nurse without a strong team backing or sense of togetherness may feel like it is “them against the world,” potentially lowering morale and increasing stress.

Nurses with strong team cohesion will likely find they enjoy coming to work much more and appreciate the challenges their roles can bring.

Better results for patients

Happy, satisfied nurses often provide their best work and are more likely to be engaged with their patients and targets. That, ultimately, means patients (no matter their age or health) can expect better standards of care all around.

Nurses who feel supported and appreciated are more likely than others to immerse themselves in their work. This means they’ll apply themselves more willingly to tasks, engage better with patients, and are more likely to do what it takes to ensure people leave their hospital or clinic feeling healthy.

Crucially, healthcare providers want patients to feel better. Therefore, a nurse that’s more engaged and more focused on providing exceptional care will expect positive outcomes, feedback, and likely broader opportunities for career progression.

Better team camaraderie

As mentioned, team-building exercises are great for building general camaraderie. As a nurse, you’ll always need to maintain a professional attitude, but the closer you feel to your teammates, the easier you will all find the working day. Beyond this, nurses who get on well outside of the clinic will communicate better and more efficiently when taking on tasks within the workplace.

Team building exercises help nurses to appreciate individual strengths, weaknesses, and other differences. They can help individuals understand how to better approach each other regarding specific tasks and workloads, too. Ultimately, more team camaraderie means more team respect. Individuals will feel that there’s always someone who’s got their back—though it’s important to recognize that this mustn’t replace self-management or self-reliance in intensive case management.

Lower turnover for healthcare providers

It stands to reason that the more engaged, motivated, and happy nurses are at work, the more likely they will want to stay part of the team and the hospital they’re working for. Given that US healthcare is in continuing need of nurses up and down the country, providers will likely want to retain as much talent as they can.

Provided healthcare companies offer their nurses additional benefits and support beyond team-building exercises, hospitals and clinics can expect their staff to stay loyal and not necessarily look for opportunities elsewhere. For many nurses, there will need to be a clear culture of learning and development, too, if they are to remain on-staff in a specific clinic. Clear managerial ethics in healthcare can support and encourage nurses to remain loyal, too. 

Ultimately, team building improves morale, which improves the chances of a nurse staying in their current workplace, and the longer a cohesive team can stay together, the better.

Increased sense of accountability

Through team building, nurses don’t just get to know each other’s interests, personalities, and attributes, they get to know each other’s positions and responsibilities, too.

This means nurses can expect to feel more ownership and accountability the more they work closely with their teams. They won’t feel the need to delegate work to other staff per se but will feel more at ease knowing what they are responsible for and who to ask for help and guidance when and if needed.

This sense of accountability is crucial for individual nursing success. For all that team building is an asset to nursing, it’s just as important that individual nurses can take control of their own workload, plan out their own cases, and motivate themselves to drive for the best care outcomes.

Accountability also allows nurses to feel more humility about their roles. The fine line between feeling over-confident and like a failure in an intensive role may be tricky to walk, but with an inflated sense of accountability, duty, and greater clarity as to where they are in the team’s chain, a nurse can confidently tackle all of their duties. 

Is team-building right for all nurses?

On paper, team-building is a fantastic investment for all nurses and their superiors. However, we all work and develop in different ways. Regardless, team-building gives us all a chance to learn about what we each bring to the table.

If you’re learning to become a nurse or are already part of an organization, there are plenty of great reasons to partake in team-building. At the very least, you’ll hopefully make some new friends and solidify relationships with your colleagues, building your confidence in the team that you will rely upon so often.

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