Mean coworkers?

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    I am new to correctional nursing.. and to my great surprise/relief I find I really like it... except for this one thing I don't understand. Why are so many of my co workers in medical so mean? They treat the inmates... not just like children though I see a bit more of that than appears necessary... but downright mean.... and they do it to each other to! There is so much backstabbing.. god help you if you work together with someone else & assume they did their end of the task. I learned real fast not to! The gossips is horrible, never a nice word to say about anyone. Not everyone is like this.. thank god or I'd be gone already.. but probably 2/3 are.

    I have actually gotten grief from someone... (under me, actually)... that I am 'too nice", as in she said to me "You think you are so much better than me just because you are nice to everyone". I was speechless, said only, "excuse me" so I could get by her to my job & even that was taken as an insult. And I'm not "nice to everyone", I'm nice to people until I have reason to be otherwise.

    It has gotten to the point, very quickly, that I just do my job & shut the you know what up. I pretend not to hear some of the awful things they say to each other about anyone who isn't there to defend themselves.. if I can't just walk away, but it is hard & I just hate it. But now the real mean ones are coming after me. One made me walk back in from the parking lot after shift because she found a piece of paper on the floor & she wanted me to pick it up. I told her "no" & left. I'll bet that first paycheck she wrote me up. Another set me up sure as I am sitting here. Were I a little less streetwise not only would I have gotten in trouble but lots of meds would have come up missing. No way that was anything but intentional. They were found stuffed in an disused corner. Come on! What kind of sick game is this?

    Suggestions? I have never had trouble getting along with people before. The guards like me well enough. I have had many compliments on how I handle the inmates, you know, with respect but take no BS. Guess how well those compliments go over with the meanies?

    The saving grace is the supervisors are NOT that way. They drop hints that lead me to believe they know & understand but otherwise seem to do little about it so long as it does not endanger anyone. (Though moral is surely dying..) It seems the lower the level of training, the worst they act.

    I am open to suggestions, comments... anything. I like this job & want to stay there. Thank god my shift is the.. uh...dare I say "Nicest"?
    interceptinglight and Davey Do like this.

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  2. 16 Comments...

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    I am also new to correctional nursing. I really do like my job. I love it. I agree with what you said about the coworkers. The back stabbing is totally out of control. I have never seen nor experienced such rudeness. I guess state and government workers feel it takes an act of congress to fire them so they leave all common sense at the door when they come to work. The staff are worse then the inmates. However, I will not be deterred. I will ignore them just as I ignore the ignorant unruly inmates. Like you, I treat all with respect and dignity until they give me a reason to treat them otherwise. Hang in there. I plan on it.
    Davey Do likes this.
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    Man! I really can appreciate what you two have to deal with. All too often, personalities get in the way of principles. And all you truly want to do is your job!

    Now, the closest I've ever worked in Correctional Nursing is Forensics at the State Mental Institution. I've worked with a couple of Nurses and Techs who have worked at Correctional Facilities. They have told me stories not unlike your own.

    Having worked in the various fields of Human Service, I have noted a sort of trend with Human Behavior: The closest concept I can come to a label for this type of behavior would be that it's a "Darwinian Dog Eat Dog World".

    It's almost like the Natural Selection thing of "only the strong survive" takes precedence here. And everyone is a predator, ready to eat or be eaten. And the more confining the environment, the more intense the eat or be eaten instinct is.

    If One behaves "nicely", then that One is viewed as being strange or weak. To be able to keep a positive attitude about Oneself and One's job can be extremely difficult in these types of circumstances. Bad usually begats bad. Most, it would seem, merely give up hope of any positive change and/or growth and either run with the pack or become rogue members.

    I wish you both the best in your endeavors.

    sharpeimom likes this.
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    Quote from Davey Do
    If One behaves "nicely", then that One is viewed as being strange or weak. To be able to keep a positive attitude about Oneself and One's job can be extremely difficult in these types of circumstances. Bad usually begats bad. Most, it would seem, merely give up hope of any positive change and/or growth and either run with the pack or become rogue members.

    I wish you both the best in your endeavors.

    Sort of... Corrections is its own animal. General suspicions:
    1) they are afraid you're a "goody-two-shoes" who will blow the whistle for negligence/malfeasance in care delivery.
    2) they are afraid you will interfere with their dope-dealing business.
    3) they are afraid they may be fired, should either of the above come up, and they really would be unable to function in "the real world".

    For the most part, most of your co-workers are not much different than the inmates- they will never progress above "Safety" in Maslow's hierarchy, or Industry vs. Inferiority in Erickson. This results in some dysfunctional retarded s***, in every sense of the phrase.

    To put it bluntly- you are concerned about your profession (theoretical), your co-workers are concerned with not getting killed/fired, or getting high/getting laid after work(carnal).

    CAVEAT!!!: certainly, this does not apply to everyone in Corrections. However, paying minimum wage to people to watch over those whose primary language is violence and graft does not draw the "best-of". God bless those who do the work because they want to make a difference.
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    Min. wage? So freakin far from it... The guards, opps, "correctional officers" maybe, but they pay nurses better than anyone else.. at least around here.

    I love Rob72's comments about blowing their good thing. That really hit the nail on the head. God forbid I learn a task faster than someone else did. And now that you mention it about the controls.... Ding! Ding! I will keep a better watch. I already CYA more than I ever have had to in any other job. & I love the Maslow reference. I had already applied it to the inmates, but GREAT INSIGHT rel. to the coworkers.

    So.. what do you do when you see outright negligence/malfeasance? I can cover my own tail... but for example I strongly suspect an IM was given asa instead of phenobarb cuz the med was "lost". I wanted to compare the 'found' one with a known & I was, as my dad used to say, 'given the bum's rush'. I refused to sign for it, but they had no trouble getting another nurse to. I see IM"s marked as being checked here, but I know for a fact they are somewhere else. And this happens every single day. Honestly, as one of the newest hires, what can I do beyond CYA? My supervisors don't really seem to care beyond keeping a lid on the worst of the interpersonal BS. Where is quality IM care in this equation?

    You'll love this comment: "Ya know, just because you are a nurse doesn't mean you have to be a ... rhymes with witch". Maybe not, maybe so...
    Davey Do likes this.
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    I was briefly a jailer and dispatcher with a county sheriff's office before going out to patrol. I was a high school teacher before that and went to the SO to get a leg in to becoming a police officer. Jail staffers (of all types) generally, though not always, are weird people. Throw that in with the fact that inmates are full of crap and you get a burned out, non-caring person.

    It's the same reason that cops always seem like they're in bad moods. They constantly listen to people go on and on about junk that is either an outright lie, an exaggeration, or is so trivial it doesn't justify dealing with. When people (like inmates) don't get their way they almost always go on the defensive.

    The thing about medical issues and inmates is that the jailers don't necessarily have to hear it. They can merely say "Ok, we're going to the nurse's station" and be done with it. Then the nursing staff is obligated to listen to it, tell them no, get them irritated, and then perhaps cause some scene that forces the jailers to lock the inmate down somewhere causing further frustration with the nursing staff and/or correctional staff. On the flip side, the inmates can either be grateful or fake it like no other. They're criminals. They lie to achieve. There's a reason they're in jail. The ones that learn to be subtley flattering, cool, and grateful get more favors and a better life in jail or prison. It's a game. Some are so skillful at that it's intriguing to watch. Anything that gets them out of the pod for a change in their daily routine is worth doing.

    Add on top of that jailers. There are people who want to be jailers, and they do it well. Many are happy and don't want to do anything else. Others, possibly too many, are people that couldn't/can't be street officers.

    I would love to go to work for the USPHS Commissioned Corps, and the BOP is the nearest and greatest chance of that happening for me. I'd be willing to put in a some time in a federal prison infirmary to make that happen, but I'd hate working in corrections because I can't stand the animals that are housed there. True, some are "normal" but got caught in their mistake and are now jailed or imprisoned. Most are career thugs who ought to be out planting corn on the moon for all I care. I've even been tempted to go to work in state prison nursing to add more into my state retirement plan, but the same thing applies. That, and the prison locations are out in BFE. Either way I wouldn't last.
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    Quote from kitamon
    Min. wage? So freakin far from it... The guards, opps, "correctional officers" maybe, but they pay nurses better than anyone else.. at least around here.
    True, but its a hand-in-hand affair. I was a CO for 6 months, my Sgt. and I coming quickly to the same conclusion- I wasn't "enough of a sumbitch".

    Here's some resource material:
    Inside the Criminal Mind, by Samenow. Kind of "counterculture" in that he believes in allocating personal responsibility for decisions, unlike the typical paradigm- its society's fault. It will help you recognize some manipulation models.

    Predictably Irrational, by Ariely. Deals with economic psychology, but has profound application in decisional processes. Helps streamline thinking, when trying to determine why this individual is doing/wanting "X".

    The Unthinkable..., by Ripley. Goes well with the next suggestion. Primarily helps you learn to look at your environment with a "failure filter"- what can go wrong & how do I prepare.

    The Survivors Club, by Sherwood. Similar to above, with a web site as well. The site.

    Be vewwy, vewwwy careful wabbit. If inmates are being logged in at the clinic, but are somewhere else, somebody has sex, drugs & other fun going on somewhere; same with "disappeared" meds. CYA, be careful, & you might want to get to know your senior IA officer, outside of the workplace.

    Regarding "quality care", don't take this the wrong way, but don't get too wrapped up in that ideal. You can't & won't ensure quality care, given the population and the social model. You can regulate deviance and abuse. IMs are going to self-medicate, lie, cheat, steal & sell their meds, whenever possible. Did I mention that they will lie, cheat and steal? Learn to play them.

    You don't have friends, inhouse, you have people with whom you may have mutually beneficial manipulative relationships. You have to learn which favor-seekers are the least harmful/dangerous. Preferrably, it will simply be one(s) who want to stay out of harms way, or get an extra/early cup of coffee, as a trustee in the clinic. Alwaysalwaysalways watch your trustees for sumggling, and do not let them make you compromise on any issue which remotely smells like something that could be taken to IA.

    All that to say, if you can buy some gossip by talking sports with a guy, and seeing he gets his extra coffee, its worth it. One last warning- do not let them buy you a Coke/snack, or in any way offer/surrender anything that could be viewed as establishing a coercive or enticing relationship.
    wooh and SilentfadesRPA like this.
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    Thank you for the references. For reasons I don't quite understand I do like this job, so thank you for the opportunity to improve & your insight/experience. It was time well spent. Blessings!
    dalgal likes this.
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    Unfortunately, in some correctional facilities there medical staff members that have worked in the environment for such a long time and do nothing to keep themselves interested or current on the latest trends in correctional nursing. They often do not have activities outside of the correctional environment that are relaxing and fun. They tend to often adopt the attitude of "us versus them"Often the nursing personnel over-identify with the correctional staff and have a punitive approach when dealing with inmates. Often they fear that if the are true advocates for incarcerated persons and speak up there is a air of disapproval and rejection by the sworn staff making the nurse feel that they're not liked or respected. You must deal with this and do it now. When you hear an inappropriate remark or are confronted by an angry attitude take the person aside and tell in no uncertain terms that this will not be tolerated and inform the manager of what had taken p[lace in writing. To avoid the "burnout" that some nurses experience in the correctional facility can be avoided by attending and participating in any groups here new ideas are presented and old ones are exchanged. for new ones. Take classes!! Take the specialty examination. Speak up. Confront bad attitudes.
    ARMORNURSE likes this.
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    Another "must read" is GAMES CRIMINALS PLAY by Allen and Bosta. It is short and easy to read; will shed a great deal of light on interactions in the environment. Also helps you understand why it is important to always follow the rules and you are not doing anyone any favor if you don't. I am as kind as possible to inmates, and believe most are higher than average intelligence, however, many have stunted emotional and intellectual development. Strong boundries are mandatory for everyone's safety and security.
    Multicollinearity likes this.

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