By Nancy Congleton, RN
Regardless of the career you choose, you are likely to face mean people in the workplace. But in the medical profession the stakes are higher because someone's life or well-being is on the line. In some occupations, if you have a disagreement with someone you can walk away and take ten; as a nurse you don't usually have this option.
Mean nurses have an exaggerated sense of self and want to be in control of all aspects of the work environment, including other nurses: how they take care of patients, their happiness at work, and what others think of them.
While it can be tempting to hold your ground, point out the issue/unfairness, and even run to HR, there is a better option. In my experience, the best way to deal with a mean nurse is to acknowledge that life isn't fair, keep your cool, and face this nonsense with as much grace and dignity as you can possibly muster. Here are three important things you need to know when dealing with a mean nurse:
Don't go to war. Nurses working in the same department must be able to work as a team and depend on each other. If you need help and the only nurse available is one you've gone to war with, you're not likely to get the support you need. Can a mean nurse make excuses or refuse to help even if you don't go to war with them? Absolutely, but it's less likely. From my experience, when you remain kind and professional towards a mean nurse and sincerely ask for help, it's hard for them to say no. Go to war with them, and you'll find it's a different story.
Don't became withdrawn, downtrodden, or tell everyone your side. If there's a situation between you and a mean nurse that's constantly affecting patient care and could yield negative patient outcomes, then you have an ethical obligation to address it. Otherwise, keep smiling, remain engaged with others, and support your fellow nurses. People are far more intuitive than we give them credit for; eventually, they figure out the truth all on their own.
It's not just new nurses who are targeted, but it gets easier with experience. I've seen nurses of all ages and experience levels deal with this. The main difference is because older nurses have usually endured more trials, they know how to get a handle on these situations more easily.
Nancy Congleton is a Registered Nurse and author of Autopsy of the NP: Dissecting the Nursing Profession Piece by Piece which will be out September 5, 2018. Learn more at:www.nursenancyrn.com