Difficult Colleague, Advice Needed

  1. I returned to work after a 5-year lapse in nursing this past week. I am working in a specialty clinic setting that is an area I have some experience in, but there are definitely some things I am unfamiliar with, so I see this as a wonderful learning opportunity!

    I let my RN and NP licenses lapse. Therefore, I have returned to work with a restricted RN license, which means that another nurse is required to provide some supervision for a certain number of hours, and, upon completion of those hours, she is required to complete a report to my licensing body stating that I am a safe, competent nurse. The problem is this: The RN who is to provide supervision to me has apparently been watching every move I make, monitoring what I say, and then presenting her greatly modified interpretation of my words and actions to my boss.

    Yesterday was my 5th day. I got called into my boss' office on arrival yesterday, and spoken to about the need to improve my interpersonal communication skills. My boss said that a few people had complained about my interactions with others. I asked her if she could give me specific examples in order to help me know what areas I should be working on. She then gave me four specific examples of circumstances, which were, in fact, not at all how they occurred. The first example is this: Another colleague had given me an information packet she made up with some tips about how to do some parts of my job that I am unfamiliar with. When she handed me the packet, the way she had written things out didn't make a lot of sense to me, so I said to her, "This isn't intuitive to me at all. Do you mind if I make some additional notes?" However, what my colleague TOLD my boss I said was this: "I don't need your packet and I'm going to make my own." Then I allegedly threw the packet on the floor. Hmmm. Very different. I've been publicly using the packet, and adding to it all week. A second example was that I was talking too much about being an NP, and I was "Lording it over the staff". A physician confirmed my behavior to my boss. However, the situation wasn't quite that simple. My colleague has spent much of our lunch hours asking me about working as a NP. I did answer her questions. Often these discussions were held in front of the doctor I am working with, so of course, it could easily appear to him that I am always talking about working as a NP. He definitely wasn't wrong in stating that as far as lunch time conversations go. But I feel that I was set up, as I wasn't seeking out opportunities to speak about my past positions. I was simply answering my colleague's questions. My boss then told me that I'm not being a team player, that everyone in the office knows I used to be a NP, and that I don't need to keep reminding them.

    A third example was that I questioned a particular practice, saying "I'm curious as to why you do [this]. I've never seen it done that way before." What got back to my boss was that I said, "I don't know why you're doing that. You're doing it wrong." The fourth example is this: One of my lovely colleagues asked if I needed any help, to which I responded, "No thanks (with a smile), but you'll be the first person I ask when I do." What my boss was told I said was this: "No. I'll let you know when and if I need help." After my meeting with my boss, I went directly to the colleague in this last situation and apologized to her because I felt so terrible that my wording was possibly poor and/or misunderstood. She had no idea what I was talking about or how my boss knew, and then said, "but I know who might have told her, watch your back."

    So now I'm left with the question of how to deal with this. I feel like I'm in high school again. I recognize the behavior of this nurse, nice to my face, and backstabbing to my boss. I've done a tonne of reading since yesterday on interpersonal communication and will definitely seek to utilize some of those techniques more often at work. But what do I do about the lying? I know I can't change my colleague; I can only change me. But what's she's saying about me to my boss is untrue. I understand that she could be feeling threatened by my presence as, until my arrival, she was the only RN in the clinic, and, she has always "ruled the roost" so to speak. It's a long story, but I know of this nurse through two previous jobs, so I've heard numerous stories about her behavior. I knew she was a bully going into this position, but this position is the only one I was offered, and I want to work as a RN again, so I took it thinking that things would be fine and I could be professional enough to not let these kind of issues bother me. Now I'm not so sure.

    For now, I'm not going to confront this nurse, and I will continue to learn my new job, offer and accept help when needed, and do what I love best, which is nursing!!!! But I'm thinking should this lying continue, the next time I will be forced to confront her as she is potentially damaging my reputation and my license. I'm thinking I will say something like this: "[Nancy], it seems that one of my colleagues may be saying untrue things to [the boss]. Since you've been here for such a long time, I'm wondering if you have any advice to offer as to how I can best handle this situation?" Does this seem like a good idea? Bad? I'm now second-guessing everything I've said and done this week, which is probably silly. I've worked as a nurse for 9 years and a NP for 6, and I've never had a real complaint about my professionalism. I realize there is ultimately something else going on here that is beyond my control, but my current impulse is to just not speak to this nurse, which, of course, I can't do! And I'm contemplating leaving the office every lunch hour to get a real break from the situation; however, I also recognize that to do so could make me look like less of a team player as the staff generally sit at their desks to eat their lunches.

    I want and need this job! The MD I work with is very, very good and I stand to learn a great deal from him. With the exception of this one colleague, the other staff members I work with are all extremely competent, kind, and professional. If anyone has been through this and has any insight/advice as to handle this situation, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you!
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   halohg
    Are you sure you meant this question for this forum in the school nurse section? But in short I would confront the supervising nurse and ask to better explain how your boss came up with such a different view of actual events. Is there union representation? If so seek advise from your rep.
  4. by   Godsgirl73
    Oh dear. No, I didn't mean it for this section. How do I change that?
    Unfortunately, the clinic I work it is non-union, so there is no counsel there.
  5. by   traumaRUs
    Moved to Colleague/Pt relations forum.
  6. by   caliotter3
    I would definitely have a meeting with the nurse, but I would make certain the meeting took place with the boss. Make it clear that you have figured out that she is twisting the information and I would address the examples you give here. Straight out ask for no more questions about NP as your answers were interpreted as ....... in front of witness, Dr. ....... Yes, it sounds petty, but she is painting a picture of you that is not reality and you will be the one suffering for it. I would look for another job. I can't imagine staying in a place where someone like this doesn't even bother to wipe the blood from the knife after each stab into your back.
  7. by   morte
    get. out. now.
  8. by   Accolay
    Sounds pretty toxic...Need more data but it sounds like this job is something that wont be easy to ditch for something else. It also sounds like it doesn't matter how you react to a situation, your response will always be incorrect. Documenting encounters will turn into he said she said hearsay and not look good for The New Guy.

    How many hours do you have left to complete? Is this the end all job, or is this job just a stepping stone to get somewhere else? What kind of probationary period do you have? Is there no other job available (though we know that leaving one job so soon doesn't always look so good). Fortunately, it doesn't sound like the the RN supervising you has made any accusations about the care you're providing.

    If you have a Plan B that could guide my advice, but for now perhaps when you have a meeting with your boss you might just have to eat a soup sandwich, if you know my meaning, and say and give plans for correction of your "responses" that may make you throw up in your mouth a little. Everyone eats a soup sandwich sometimes.

    I'd continue to play it by ear and hopefully wont be an impasse with HR and your boss.

    If I'm assuming there is no Plan B: Continue to be professional and do your job with the utmost care and attention to detail, since that is what the reporting in the end is about. Become communication stealth ninja. Don't offer up any information for this person or in the office. Have conversations about the days work. Not unfriendly, not indifferent. But not too friendly....not too smiley...no too laughy. Steer conversations, don't talk about yourself, ask questions about other people and their work-make others the spotlight. Compliment them. But not too talkative.

    I know...it's stupid. I understand this post is absolutely no help at all. If you don't go crazy maybe you'll get out in one piece. Or figure out Plan B.

    Good luck
  9. by   not.done.yet
    Look for a different job. If this nurse "ruled the roost" and already has the ear of management to this level you are in a battle that will shake your confidence and rule your psyche for some time to come. Keep working but also keep looking.
  10. by   Accolay
    One thing I didn't think of: maybe you're manager is afraid of that nurse, or at least knows how she works. Wondering if your boss feels as if they have to respond to your coworker's allegations to placate them?

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