Tension in the workplace

  1. Hey all, again asking for advice, but this time not for something that is specifically my prob.

    I have been working in a community hospital L/D for about 8 months now, love the job, and the co-workers are culturally diverse. Now one culture does override the other, but this is just how it is at this hospital, doesn't mean that they don't hire people from other cultures as I and another co-worker are both ouselves different, culutrally that is. Here's the thing my co-worker is hell bent on accusing our co-workers and now I find myself included in discrimination. She states that we pick on her, make her do more work than others and get the harder assignments. Well to be honest, she doesn't always get the harder assignments, I usually end up w/ them, which is ok as I prefere to be busy and we both just graduated last year, and you can only learn from doing in my opinion. She claims that she got shotty orientation, which she acutally had a little longer orientation than I did and overall wasn't too bad, frustrating at times, yes, and we used to talk about these frustrations, but that goes hand in hand w/ orientation I have now come to that realization. The thing is she is extreemly defensive, you try and help and either she gets offended or does nothing at all. She doesn't try and make it better by atleast appearing interested, she just gets defensive.

    This has been perpetuating more and more lately and it is becoming a big problem. Now she is accusing everyone of discrimination. Well, guess what, everyone is getting tired of it. She is always behind on charting, has found to be falsifying charting (ie BPs charted are not those off of the dynomap), doesn't act in a situation when it is necessary, doesn't chart meds, charting is usually incomplete and blatently becoming more and more dangerous. Now all my co-workers, those that are a different culture from myself as well, are becoming more and more upset by the situation. This culture is based on respect for your elders and for your fellow humans, and have NOT been picking on her specifically. They give her assignments so that she can learn and become more comfortable w/ these types of pts.

    She is now to the point of having tantrums, swearing, crying, lies, yelling at everyone, physicians included. She is becoming more and more unable to make a decision and blames everyone else when she ends up making the wrong decision. She outright accused us of being discrimanatory, states that "you are going to pay" for this, and I believe has become threatening.

    Sufficit to say no one wants to work w/ her, no one wants to be in charge of her and at the same time no one wants to fire her because, she is a single mom w/ three kids and our boss is on vacation (she was very aware of this and has been more than fair w/ her before she left.)

    This is of course causing BIG problems, physicians are asking for her not to take care of their pts, she is minipulative and just down right irritating. Two nurses are ready to quit. She calls out when she is pissed at us, causing staffing problems. She has involved the nursing supervisors and the nursing director as well. Nothing is outwardly being done. It is out of hand really.

    I have alot of empathy for her, as I know what it is like to be under alot of stress, and it does change your personality and behavior. But at the same time I DO NOT agree w/ what she is doing. I think she need help and even though this has been offered, she down right refuses it. Its sad really. No body wants to fire a single mom, but they are also afraid because of the discrimination accusation hanging over them. Some of them look to me becuase like here I am the only one of my culture/race on the unit & shift, as is she. I have no problems, and infact find everyone very caring and nurturing to me, as they were to her as well, until this started, now nobody knows what to do. And they talk about it to me because we went through orientation together and used to talk. But the more she became angry the more I stayed away and disassociated myself from her, kinda feel bad but I didn't know what to say or do. Not to mention it is not my place to be the one to make any decision or to be smooting things out, that should be left to the managers.

    Have any ideas or thoughts?
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  2. 13 Comments

  3. by   rn711
    To acuteobrn re: tension in the workplace


    If your coworker is having tantrums and unable to make wise decisions, you MUST do something. Document her "explosions" and if your boss is out of town, take it to someone else. You and your fellow employees could be held accountable if her actions jeopardize the safety of a patient and word gets out that you knew she was unreliable. Good luck and let us know how things work out.
  4. by   heart queen
    Agh, tough! Now you've not stated that she's incompetent, just falls behind and is very poor with documentation ( which protects not only her but the facility).

    There just is that something missing from the equasion, whether real or preceived that leads to this cultural rift.

    Now, although her personality and actions have been a huge turn off to the staff, you all may try to take matters into your own hands with a letter to management stating;

    "Mary feels she has been slighted due to cultural differences. As a team we support her in carring for our patients and will try to the best of our efforts to resolve this though team work", everyone willing signs.

    Now the follow through, "mary, you've have two admissions, let me help with the paperwork, fetal monitoring, IV start". Let everyone spend 5 minutes at the end of the day, documenting howthey've tried to help. Submit this to management.

    If the "team" rallies behind her, no matter how unloving she is acting, one of two things will happen.

    1. she'll thrive and so will your patients
    2. the complaints, obviously unfounded at this point will continue

    by 5 minutes for each nurse in documentation, plus a team effort will show her true colors.

    Hopefully she'll be a beautiful rainbow, corney :chuckle , but if not, you've done all you can do and it's now managements problem to find her a position best suited for her "cultural differences"
  5. by   Teacher Sue
    It's very difficult to form an opinion from a single post, and from only one person's perceptions, but here goes.
    First of all, it sounds as if this person has an emotional problem or personality disorder of some kind. It sounds like she needs professional help.
    Second, even if she is a single Mom, she cannot be allowed to disrupt the work environment. This is dangerous to staff and patients alike. Her actions need to be documented, and if your manager refuses to handle this situation, then take your documentation to someone who will.
    When I was Unit Director of ICU, I had a nurse who behaved in a similar manner. I documented everything until I had enough proof to terminate her. Falsifying records should be enough of a reason to take some kind of disciplinary action. It is tough to fire someone, but your manager's first responsibility is to the patients and the rest of the staff.
  6. by   acuteobrn
    Hey,
    Sorry never did thank those that replied, so thank you!

    A month has gone by and not much has changed. I myself am frustrated. So are others. Our manager is back and fully aware of the situation, yet nothing has been done to my knowledge. So we just go on in this little vortex of ours. Call outs are now weekly, she seems not to have a baby sitter on a particular night and guess what calls in sick. This pay period so far has called out 3 times. I had to tell them I could work OT and ended up calling in because I am sick. They gave me a guilt trip (staffing is very tight). What can you do? I have documented some things and gave them to the NM. Just have to wait and see now. But again in the immortal words of Bartle and James,...Thanks for your support.
  7. by   Katnip
    Document everything. Falsifications is illegal. Remind management, that if she falsifies vitals and management has been made aware of it, management is liable if something happens to that patient.

    Also, it's pretty bad when physicians start requesting that a particular nurse not take care of their patients. Get enough of them, and the woman won't be allowed to work.

    If her behavior continues or escalates she really could be a danger to patients.

    Management needs to take this in hand immediately and talk with the woman to see if there aren't some mental health issues going on here. With enough documentation they can fire someone, even someone in an ethnic minority group. The first duty is to patient care and safety.
  8. by   kids
    Quote from acuteobrn
    <snip>She is now to the point of having tantrums, swearing, crying, lies, yelling at everyone, physicians included. She is becoming more and more unable to make a decision and blames everyone else when she ends up making the wrong decision. She outright accused us of being discrimanatory, states that "you are going to pay" for this, and I believe has become threatening.<snip>
    You wrote (more recently) that your NM is aware and does not appear to be acting on it, please keep in mind you are not privy to info regarding employee discipline or councelling. At the same time, it is possible that your NM is feeling intimidated by the employees claims of discrimination and threats also.

    Being a the cynical and suspicious person that I am I would suspect the "problem" employee is aware of their poor performance and maybe setting the hospital up for wrongful termination/discrimination suit.

    The behavior you discribe (above) and the fact you feel threatened by it is grounds for you to file a "hostile work environment" complaint with both your HR department and the (I think it is) the EEOC. In the long run you may be protecting yourself, your co-workers and your employer by doing so.
    Last edit by kids on Apr 14, '04
  9. by   Tweety
    Sounds like you need to be talking to your human resources department and perhaps risk management.

    Good luck.
  10. by   BabyRN2Be
    Quote from kids-r-fun
    The behavior you discribe (above) and the fact you feel threatened by it is grounds for you to file a "hostile work environment" complaint with both your HR department and the (I think it is) the EEOC. In the long run you may be protecting yourself, your co-workers and your employer by doing so.
    Kids-r-fun has this right on the head. In this day hospitals must be very careful about firing someone who is perceived as culturally different. This might be a course of action you could follow until things work themselves out.

    As it was stated before, it's pretty bad when a doc requests that a particular nurse not be assigned to a pt.

    Just do your part and document, document, and document.

    I know that a tense work situation is not fun, but hopefully this will be resolved soon.

    Good luck!
  11. by   acuteobrn
    Thanks for the good ideas, I will start by speaking to the HR director when he comes back from vaction (every body seems to be on vacation except me )

    You did hit that nail right on the head Kids-r-us, that is exactly what is going on from my perspective. Once the word "discrimination" entered the picture everyone got very stand-offish on vocalizing any thing or stopping any behavior. I have taken some steps like helping her to another empty room when she acts like this and bringing up the fact that this isn't professional behavior, ie risking patient complaint and a lost job. Told her to think of her kids when she is this upset, that they depend on her. Her reaction, very immature..."I don't give a damn what happens, that is what state aid is for, I will not put up with this....." You fill in the blank. The fact is they are not really discriminating against her, just they do not like the behavior as it causes alot of stress for us that have to put up w/ it.

    Anyhow I was talking to a friend of mine who says that there is a lawsuit in process for this exact thing from another former staff member who was of, get this, the same culture as this one we are dealing w/. And of course she knows about this and has brought this fact up. I don't know for sure, but it sounds like this is where it is going, gut instincts talking here.

    Who knows how far this will go. I just really don't want anyone to get hurt.
  12. by   moia
    This is a really tricky problem but there are some solutions.

    You need to make a plan.
    When you are on shift with her limit your contact with her to the absolute barest minimum...I mean try to make it through the entire shift without exchanging a single word with her. Never ever try to coach or repair her behaviour...NEVER EVER comment on anything she does to her face...anything you say is and will be ammunition for her lawsuit. I can gurantee you will be horrified when you hear your words repeated in a court of law twisted in a nasty way to support workplace discrimination.

    What you need to do is document on the patients chart your findings and then your assessment and then what you did to reconcile your assessment to to the improperly recorded dynamap BP etc...these are the things that will demonstrate a pattern of behaviour and will show that you protected the patient without "discrimination to the nurse.


    This is going to be really painful but you can't get involved with this nurse...never ever make comments like you need to do a better job and think about your children...this comment can be so easily twisted to sound like a threat it would have you in tears...
    This is a situation out of control and looking for a place to blow out of control...your bosses would be more than happy to have it blow up in your face.

    Be strictly professional, if she spins out of control ignore her completely, pretend she is invisible and walk right past her..encourage everyone to ignore her...she does this to get attention and to get a reaction..stop giving it to her.
    Once everyone stops feeding her she may give it up...I really doubt it BUT this is NOT a staff problem... this is an employee/management problem..let them fight it out and stay firmly out of the way with your mouth firmly shut.
    Your only obligation is to keep the patient out of the line of fire. You have no obligation to explain to the nutjob why you are closing the patients door or moving the patient to the sunroom..just do it wordlessly. I can bet she is smart enough to figure it out and chart the move.
  13. by   mattsmom81
    I agree with Moia. This nurse seems to be heading for a discrimination lawsuit and is looking to get out of working and get 'taken care of' by lawsuit settlement and public asistance, from what you have shared. I have seen more and more of this 'discrimination' stuff too...and this type will twist everything that way. We can't say a word to them, its always twisted to the race card. I feel bad for managers who have to supervise these people, but I agree with Moia it IS their problem...document and try to stay out of the fray best you can.

    I wish nurses would stick together more, as we make a bigger impact when we can. If your coworkers will all document what they are finding, objectively, you will help your manager if she has the cajones to deal with this straightforwardly.

    If push comes to shove, this nurse and your manager both have licenses. If patients are being potentially harmed, THEY have the liability IF you and your coworkers have documented objectively. Keep copies of your documentation to prove you have submitted it...it has a way of disappearing.

    Good luck and remember one can always make a phone call to the BNE and most facilities have an anonymous hotline to corporate if necessary.

    We had a nurse who 'melted down' regularly on the unit. Our response was to call the house supervisor quietly 'stat' to observe it directly. It worked. The supervisor got with our manager and things started to happen then.
  14. by   webbiedebbie
    Although I don't agree that altering documentation is acceptable, I think she is not in the right position. SOUNDS TO ME THAT SHE IS NOT SUITED FOR L&D! Perhaps a transfer to a more structured unit (PP, Med/Surg) would be sufficient to calm her down. Everyone fears being fired if they have trouble in a particular unit. Not everyone is suited to work particular units. I can't second guess the manager because I am not in that position.

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