I flatly told her that unless the problem was with my patient care or my clinical skills, then the discussion was over. I told her that in the future, when these people came to her to complain, she should refer them directly to me, as we are adults, not 7th graders. Again, it shut them up quickly. Calling people on juvenile and abusive behavior generally puts a stop to it, in my experience. Laying down and allowing them to treat you like crap is what perpetuates the cycle.
Of course assertiveness is important in confronting nurse-eating behaviour, as Kday pointed out. However it is often not
well-received, especially when the person trying to assert themselves are a new grad or student.
Nowadays team work is considered to be the most important part of nursing, and I would agree that second to safety, it is
the most important thing, along with patient rapport and empathy. So if more than one nurse complains that you don't "mesh in" with them, chances are it will be taken seriously and the approach of saying "if you don't have any complaints about my patient care or skills then get out of my face" won't work anymore, at least in Australia.
Another problem is that the complaints made against other nurses because they are new or don't fit in are not limited to "personality not meshing in" with the others. Often complaints are either blown up
out of proportion or invented
. As a student, I was terminated from a clinical placement because the clinical nurse specialist on the unit did not like me. When I asked her a question she would scream at me to leave her alone or stop hassling her. She was the team leader about half the time I was in that unit, so I couldn't avoid asking her some questions.
On the first day she was like that, I calmly told her that I am not hassling her, that I just needed to know her opinion as team leader. I kept using this approach whenever she would yell at me. I would then laugh her behaviour off later on. This did not change her behaviour one iota. She ended up making a big deal out of a small situation and made it look like a major safety issue, where in reality there was no safety issue at all.
Some argued that I should have been more aggressive in confronting her, yelling back at her
. I disagreed (and still do) because that would be perpetuating the cycle by giving it back to her. We have to rise beyond that. Be assertive, sure, but set a good example, don't use their abusive methods back at them.
But one has to take into account why
this behaviour happens. As one poster wrote, fear
. The other reason, oppression. Another, loss of control due to over-stressed work conditions. All these reasons have one thing in common: loss of power or control, so it would seem to me that a positive step would be to empower others, and to do that we have to start with ourselves.
Here are some ways I've been able to think up to achieve this, and I hope others have good ideas too: firstly, give compliments to your coworkers - let them know you respect them for certain things they do. Find positives in even those you don't like. Perhaps in drawing attention to their good points you will cause them to display them more and they will also be more likely to take criticism about their negative points on board. As Kday said, stand by someone when they are making a fair stand against something/someone that is unfair. Support them in being assertive, but in a respectful and productive way. Be a good example of how to get one's concerns out into the open.
Please, if you have any other ideas, let's see them.
[This message has been edited by Doc (edited April 15, 2001).]