I’m sure we can all agree that working on nursing staff isn’t always easy. Schedules are hectic, there’s never enough staff on hand to get the work done; and let’s not forget about those pesky co-workers of ours who often times can be…well, just plain annoying! In this post, I’d like to touch upon some tips you might find useful in dealing with those annoyances.
1) Maintain your composure at all times
You’re new to the floor but optimistic enough to know that things can only get better. You finish placing orders for your meds, turning the computer out of “sleep mode” and finally getting it ready for use…only to discover that none of your meds are in the computer system. The other nurses around you are frantically trying to figure out who’s meds need to be written and it seems like everyone is too busy to help you get your med orders entered. As quickly as possible, take a step back and ask yourself what would Captain Picard do?
You know that famous quote from Star Trek…
Well, sometimes that’s just what our co-workers need us to do…make things happen. So next time something like this happens, try using your best Jean Luc voice and take charge of the situation!
- Speak confidently but kindly when asking for help.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of potential options through helpful suggestions or directions on how to get the job done.
- Don’t give up until you’re satisfied that you’ve done everything possible to get the orders in.
2) Figure out your personal work space dynamics
You are assigned to a med surg floor, which is an open bay type floor meaning there are no doors between patient rooms. You find your spot in the corner of the room and set up shop, only to discover that at least one nurse per shift is unprepared for their assignment on your new unit. Cue…the food needed in front of 15 patients, voice cracking while singing “happy birthday” or being heckled by some very opinionated regulars who have been placed in the bay near your work station. Most nurses will inform their superiors about problems they may be having with certain co-workers when asked but what about those little annoyances that no one seems to notice?
- Take a proactive approach and ask questions.
- If you need help with medications, food trays or were assigned the patient who always needs their dressing changed by 0600 then ASK for some assistance.
It’s okay to tell your supervisor that sometimes you could use an extra set of hands because it isn’t too early in your nursing career to figure out what kind of workspace dynamics resonate well with you and which ones don’t fit into the equation at all!
3) Avoid gossiping on the units
It’s day four on your new unit and so far, things are going pretty well…you haven’t missed any meds yet, the computer is becoming easier to navigate, and all of the nurses are pretty nice. Ok…almost all of the nurses seem really nice, actually.
Another new nurse approached you on break and mentioned that she had heard some not-so-great things about another one of your co-workers. You were shocked to hear what she had to say about “so-n-so” because it’s so different than how your interactions with her have been, but then again everyone deserves a second chance right?
So you report this information to your supervisor in hopes that they’ll look into it further and ensure that nothing like this happens on their watch again. Unfortunately, some gossiping isn’t always avoidable especially if certain people find themselves working together more often than others. However, are certain steps you can take to diffuse the situation before it gets to be too much of a problem.
- Before you approach your supervisor, see if you can figure out what’s causing the issue on your own first.
- If you’re not sure where to start then try talking to someone who isn’t involved in the conflict and ask for their point of view on the matter.
- Ask them how they would handle a similar situation if they were in your shoes, always keeping in mind that there are many different techniques to solving problems!
4) Try a new nursing strategy every week
You’ve been on your unit for almost three months now and have gotten into a pretty good routine. You know when patients will need pain medication based on their IV PCA pump settings, you don’t have to look at the drug chart before giving insulin, and can anticipate what will happen next during your shift without having to ask the doctor; but something is still missing.
Finding a unit routine that works for you may take a few weeks or a few months so in the meantime why not try something new on your patients every week? If you currently have patients who are receiving wound care then maybe it’s time to switch things up by doing some bathing instead!
There are many different nursing strategies out there that work just as well as others depending on your patient population and specific needs. You might even find that by changing up some of your procedures you’re able to shorten your workday because you’re more organized from the get-go whereas before you were rushing around and didn’t know where to begin.
All in all, if you try something new for at least one patient a week then pretty soon you’ll be able to find your “unit groove” and will feel ready to tackle the next chapter of nursing!
5) Don’t let specific patients get to you
There’s no way around it…Nursing can be a very stressful profession especially when you’re constantly picking up after people who aren’t taking care of their health or when certain patients always seem to have an attitude with everything that you say.
Some nurses believe that it’s easier said than done but what they might not realize is that a lot of these problem patients generally fall into three different categories: addicts hypochondriacs/emotionally unstable patients family members of hospitalized patients
If you find that your problem is occurring more often with family members then it might be time to sit down with them and talk about ways that you can work together in order to make the patient’s stay more enjoyable.
Not only will this help your patient but it’ll also build a bridge between yourself and their loved one which could lead to better communication when you do have suggestions for improvement.
If addicts are who are giving you trouble then try speaking to them during their scheduled treatments, lessening pain medication prescriptions, or even switching medications altogether if possible.
Last, but not least, sometimes difficult emotions arise because of an emotionally unstable individual so instead of shunting these feelings under the rug why not give yourself permission to relax and take a break? It’s not always an easy task dealing with these patients but if you find yourself constantly getting worked up over the same patient then it might be time to step out for some fresh air or even consider finding another job because of your stress level.
6) Think before you speak
One of the best pieces of advice that I can offer is to spend one-day taking notice of how many times people say “um” during their conversations. We all do it, especially when we’re nervous or unsure about something; although this sort of filler word certainly doesn’t help us sound any more professional than we already are!
Before making any verbal commitments regarding your patients try thinking things through first.
- Does what you’re about to say sound appropriate in your mind?
- Do you have all the facts that you need to help this person out?
If not then maybe what you’ve wanted to say isn’t so important because it’s only going to create more problems for everyone involved.
Generally, when people are speaking they don’t want to hear a bunch of ums flying around so why not avoid being one of those people by listening first, responding second?
7) Don’t be afraid to speak up!
Everyone loves nurses that “go with the flow” and never cause any trouble, but sometimes that’s just not enough! Although there are some things that we simply can’t change (ex. patients waking up early for pain medications), there are still plenty of other ways that we can make a difference.
Some nurses spend their entire careers going unnoticed while others spend them making the same mistakes over and over again or even dying because doctors were too busy or didn’t notice an issue in time. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right then don’t be afraid to speak up!
By doing so you’re providing an essential service to your patients and other people involved just as much as any other member of this team. In the end, if something goes wrong then it’s not going to matter whether or not you spoke up or kept your mouth shut because it’s either going to happen anyway…or perhaps could have been prevented altogether if only someone had said something.
8) Keep your personal life to yourself
When people ask me why I went into nursing the answer is usually pretty simple:
Nursing is my passion!
Unfortunately, this isn’t always a good enough explanation for others so I tend to throw a little something else in there …like how much time off I get or how flexible my schedule is.
The truth is I could have probably been just as happy doing almost anything else but for some reason, God led me down this path and honestly; who am I to argue with Him? Thankfully it turns out that He has an amazing sense of humor so here I am doing something that makes me happy, even though it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Unfortunately the downside to having such a strong passion for nursing is that it can sometimes get in the way of other relationships. For example, if you’re talking to someone who has known you since high school then don’t feel obligated to bring up your traumatic experiences with administration or how hard your job can be; chances are they’re not interested unless there’s an element of gossip involved!
9) Don’t forget why you started this career in the first place!
I worked at my very first job for almost 3 years before I realized what it was like trying to do the same thing every single day without any change. It wasn’t until I started working in psychiatry that I finally realized what I was missing!
As a nurse we spend almost as much time on our feet as we do with our heads down, looking at computer screens and charts. It’s easy to forget sometimes why we decided to go into nursing but you know what; those people out there don’t care whether or not you graduated from college and they sure as hell don’t care about how many diplomas are hanging up on your wall!
All that matters to them is that someone comes along and helps them when they need it most; this may mean sneaking them some extra morphine because “it hurts too much” or helping them get back onto their feet after a fall. By providing such an invaluable service you’ve already fulfilled your role in society and you should be proud of yourself for that!
So there you have it; 10 ways to deal with annoying co-workers as a nurse. Whether we like it or not we all need others to depend on us when times get tough so why not take some time out of your day to help someone else?
If you’re having trouble coping with the stress then perhaps it’s time for an intervention? Who knows, maybe you can bring up these ideas at your next staff meeting?! If anything just remembers that every single person who is working beside you has their own set of problems and if they seem like they don’t want to be bothered by listening to yours then let them go about their business and save the conversation for later when things have calmed down a bit. As always, thanks for reading, and remember to keep calm and carry on!