Trying To Stay Motivated About My RN Work

Question:

I’m an RN and currently work in Outpatient Surgery. My first job, the women were rude, hateful, and just down right nasty. I never knew how mean women could be to each other. One set me up for a wrong count, not answering me when I asked them questions, 5th grade stuff, etc. Many of the doctors threw tantrums, bloody instruments, and swearing, name calling, etc. I have talked to other nurses about it and they all say things like that have happened to them. It has been going on for years and these things are just allowed and accepted as par for the course.

One time I wrote up a couple of employees (nursing home) and they absolutely made my remainder of time at this particular job – “hell”. I did not go to the supervisor about it, but tried to deal with it myself. Later, the supervisor defended the one particular CNA when I said she was verbally abusive to the clients.

The supervisor verbally put down all employees on a regular basis. It was just poor management and a lack of support for the nurses, because they did not want to loose any CNAs. I saw the administrator last week and she just gave me a hug.

If you write up doctors in the OR, that can really cause some problems since they are the money makers of the hospital. Some of the doctors are so vulgar that the conversations during surgery would make the devil blush.

On one job I had a supervisor who called everyone but me (4 different times) and told them not to come in, because there was not enough work. So I got up early, drove 30 miles to work to find out that I wasn’t scheduled to work! I quit.

I will be honest and say I suffer with low confidence and self-esteem issues. How does a person get confidence without support?

I like nursing itself, my complaint is co-workers. I enjoy helping others and take pride in my work. I am a hard worker but find that I do not function at my personal best due to these issues I have expressed.

Signed,

Disheartened


Answer:

Dear Disheartened:

Our mailbox has certainly had its share of questions and concerns from medical workplaces. Your descriptions echo many of those letters.

I wish I knew a method, technique or tip that could make your work environment different, but obviously it is a work culture, not just one workplace or even a few.

There certainly ARE ways for supervisors and managers to require employees to treat each other with respect and courtesy, but sadly, few supervisors or managers want to get involved with those issues. I don’t know what they thought being a manager was all about, but apparently they didn’t think it had anything to do with people!

Nevertheless, in spite of those pessimisitc sounding words, I think there are ways to keep yourself going in spite of the negative situations. Let me share some thoughts about that and you can see if any of it can be adapted to your life and work.

1. You mentioned in your other message to us that you are considering changing jobs because you think you have found one that is more congenial. If you think there is a chance for a better situation and the finances work out, I’d say do it. Dr. Gorden often uses the term, “Vote with your feet”.

If you have the chance for an exit interview, use it to express your feelings about what has happened. I doubt it will make a difference–but it might add support to someone else’s statements.

2. Whether you stay or go, consider finding a counselor locally–or an Employee Asssitance Program–as a way to be able to talk about not only the actions of others but your own reactions. You say you have some self-esteem issues, and that may be making everything even worse feeling than otherwise.

Along with that, make sure you are finding enjoyment and support outside of work. Make it a point to find ways to neutralize the negative aspects of work the moment you leave it.

3. There apparently are negative actions that are not directed at you specifically. (The language, general nastiness and hostility.) Those are the easiest to deal with. The best way is to put as much of your focus as possible on your own work. Sort of the concept of keeping your eye on the mark. What is it that is your goal for work? Write that down and think of each minute, hour and day as another opportunity to achieve the goal.

What did you want to do and be when you went back to school for this career? Do you still want that? If you do, keep that as your goal and say it like a mantra to remind you.

Things like bad language, mean doctors and nurses, and poor supervision and management will never be easy to deal with but you may be able to make them tolerable until you can get to someplace else.

4. I often discuss the concept of becoming influential at work. An influential person is always treated better than someone without influence. Good things start happening when you are perceived as being someone of status and importance.

The steps for gaining influence are: 1.) Be credible (Be excellent at your work, or at least be obviously gaining skills all the time. Be right more often than not.) 2.) Be valuable. (Make yourself valuable to others. Offer them something they can’t easily get from someone else.

Among those things are information, assistance, good feelings, cooperation, support, encouragement, recognition, rewards, and anything else that appeals to the individual.

You can be valuable to managers and supervisors by asking them what you can do to help and by being the most dependable employee they have. You can be valuable to those with less tenure by being the one who is friendly to them, answers their questions and is concerned without being excessive about it. You can be valuable to coworkers by making it worth their while to at least be civil. You won’t necessarily gain friends, you’ll just reduce the level of active animosity, which may be enough to make things better.

The third component of influence, after being credible and valuable, is to communicate effectively. It’s all about relationships. You can’t have a relationship without personal communications. Don’t avoid the people who are badmouthing you, seek them out and chat with them now and then. Smile, no matter our crabby they look or act. You might have to become an actor yourself, but communicate directly with everyone.

I use this idea, and it works: Think of what we say about dental care—you don’t have to floss every tooth, just the ones you want to keep. Well, you don’t have to communicate with every person every day, just the ones you want to have a positive relationship with. So, floss as many people as you can, every day. Just a gentle floss is all that’s necessary: A smile, nod of the head, thumbs up, pat on the shoulder, a thank you, a question, a comment about work or life. Something that reaches out and into their world.

5. That brings me to the idea of looking outward a bit more. You are surrounded by people who are hurting–patients, families, friends, overworked assistants, maintenance staff and many others who feel the same way you do only for different reasons.

What have you done in the last 24 hours to reach out to those people in a positive, strong way? It’s nice to be sweetly caring….it’s better to be strong and sure that life offers something worthwhile. You can model that and set the example for others.

While I know it is true that mean people can be mean to someone who is nice, it is much less likely that someone will be treated meanly if they are credible, valuble and communicate often and effectively. What you’re after is the mid-way between being a victim and being an aggressor.

6. You certainly must be a person with strength of character and strong resolution to have made it through training, internship, new job worries and so forth. You will probably need to use that strength every day to keep going, at least until you are in a much better work situation. But it can be done. Others do it and so can you.

If you want the career and you need the work, you either must find the strength to keep going where you are, or find a new place and resolve to start it strong and positively and continue that way. Sadly many women are vicious to other women. I wish that wasn’t so, but it is. I have rarely encountered a completely warm, supportive group of women in a workplace. In clubs and organizations, yes, but not in a work setting. I hold the supervisors and managers to blame for that because they could stop the bad behavior. But, since they don’t, it’s up to ethical, decent individual women to be better than the poor characters of some of those they may be working with. YOU can be better. But you can only do that effectively if you make it part of your own character to be that way.

So, at the end of this long message, I haven’t provided you with any sure fire advice! But, I hope these thoughts might inspire some of your own, about how you can be the best and most professional person anyone in your workplace has ever worked with. On the road to that goal I think you will find a lot more happiness as well as the ability to handle the rough parts.

If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide to do about your work and what happens overall. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.