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Being a Nurse Manager: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Mean Nurses, Where are Your Manners?

Published December 5, 2016 10:34 AM by Samantha Therrien
Every day in our nursing career we meet a lot of diverse types of people. But handling different types of nurses at work can be a dismaying task. It can be very challenging working with lazy, difficult coworkers who don't pull their weight. If you have been in this profession for any length of time (22 years for me), you know who I am talking about. Gone are the days that we say please and thank you. When I started my nursing career everyone was family; now it seems we're just colleagues.

I noticed the other day while working on the unit with my staff, when the schedule was crazy, doctors were running behind, and the patients were getting angry, that some of my coworkers who are nurses forgot their manners when talking to other nurses and their managers. I feel I need to vent about this subject.

On this day in question, I stopped for a minute and finally took a sip of water when I heard this nurse being rude to another nurse. And the worst part of it? A patient witnessed the incident. My mind was screaming "Noooo!!! I can't believe they just did this if front of a patient!" I could not even speak. At that moment, I realized that nurses are the meanest people that I ever met. Why do they feel the need to sabotage other nurses or managers and make them feel miserable?

I decided in that moment to set boundaries for myself: some nurses will see you as a manager. Some might think you are too conservative or too traditional or too smart or too stupid. I will not satisfy them one way or the other no matter how much I might want to. So I won't try.

Maybe it's because nursing is predominantly women, and we can be catty, mean-spirited, and plain nasty when it comes to each other. Is it because we're such an oppressed group? As the saying goes, "Girls will be girls."

I think it really boils down to taking whatever is dished out by so many different peopleadministration, doctors, families. We venture not to stand up to these people, because complaining could jeopardize our jobs. So we develop a lot of anxiety and hostility that is likely to pit us nurses against each other. We end up being so hateful to each other. It's hard to be pleasant and considerate of other nurses when you are overworked, emotionally and physically depleted, and you have so little time for yourself, let alone your colleagues.

And if there's a toxic environment, you won't be able to give your full attention to patient care.

As a nurse manager, I set the standards for the staff. Nurse managers sometimes forget to monitor our own behavior even if it's unintentionally. We get caught up in the demands of the schedule, patient satisfaction, etc. For example, sighing heavily after someone speaks could be interpreted as negative. Other behaviors to watch out for are favoritism, certain body language, gossiping, and speaking in a raised voice.

For too long nurse managers have taken the responsibility for the individual nurse's behavior. Let's stop taking all the blame for what is wrong; we need to teach nurses how to cope with difficult situations and to have the skills to diffuse a situation. This is critical to ending rude behavior. We need to begin to place the accountability where the accountability belongs per the ANA Code of Ethics. Nursing, as a profession, needs to support an environment of knowledge, education, and collegiality. We all gain by supporting each other, and equally, we and our patient lose when we knock each other down.

Be yourselfa nurse. Mean and nice nurses are all over; do not let them chose who you are.

3 comments

You sound like a fair manager.  I have only worked with 3 managers that I have liked in 15 years.  That said one of these ones hid in her office avoiding the politics but in other ways she was excellent.  Another who blasted me in her office because I mentioned a safety issue that would have cost the organisation a lot of money to roll out an intervention across all the facilities however this manager encouraged her staff to aim higher and she also explained things from her perspective behind closed doors, which I truly appreciated.  

I have also worked with managers that cannot do basic assessments to figure out if an elderly person is cognizant and it cost the patient their life further down the track.  (I simply googled their name and found out that she had passed away a few months later).  Upper management was ignorant and arrogant and they easily had the wool pulled over their eyes by my manager who was a sociopath.  Their should be a board that delves into such cases, that is not made up of nurses as figureheads so that managers can have black marks put against their names also.

Jess Jansen April 4, 2017 1:22 AM

I am so weary of hearing about nurses being mean to other nurses.  In my 30+ year career the meanness has been on the part of nurse supervisors, nursing directors, managers who treat staff nurses with disrespect.  Nurses in power positions "eat their underlings" is the reality.

CM, College - RN, College December 6, 2016 10:04 AM
Ypsilanti MI

the other thing to keep in mind is that when a patient comes into our facility, they are often frightened and must give up "control" of their lives for a short time.  remember, they do not work here, they are our "prisoners" until the thing that they came in for has been safely accomplished.  humility will come soon enough when your day comes and you have to put on a johnny and lay down on a cold stretcher...............its only a matter of time.

Don December 5, 2016 2:29 PM

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