New RN frustrated with coworker behavior

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    Hi everyone!
    I am a new nurse at a very small town hospital, where everyone knows everyone. I live out of town in a larger city and commute to this small town, which is an hour's drive away. I really enjoy this job so far. My supervisors and preceptor have been wonderful to me. My problem is with some of my coworkers. I work night shift, where there is little supervision. Some of these coworkers act in an extremely unprofessional way most of the time. They talk about their sexual appetites, flirt relentlessly with the MD residents, (who are married with children) and talk about the "stupid" policies we have and how we shouldn't follow them. They also talk negatively about the patients and show no empathy whatsoever.
    This, I can handle. I get really frustrated, however, when their talk shifts to political and religious topics. This town is overwhelmingly Catholic and conservative. I am quite liberal in my thinking and believe medical care should be available to all. I also don't believe higher ups should be pressuring nurses to go to church, etc...(which they do).
    Since starting, I've been sitting at the nurses' station listening to conversations about how people on welfare should be forced to undergo routine drug screens, how teachers should all carry guns, (I'm a former high school teacher, and cringe at the thought) and how "lazy" and undeserving Medicaid patients are. I don't agree with any of this, but feel I shouldn't chime in, because I'm new and don't want to upset anyone.
    I am older than I appear. I am 33 years old, but this comes as a shock to many. I am very petite. Upon meeting my coworkers for the first time, they questioned my weight openly and rudely. (I weigh 100 lbs.) Many of the coworkers who are younger than I am refer to me as "kiddo". It drives me nuts.
    Most recently, I was in a situation where it came out that I am currently in grad school at our state university to become an FNP. My coworkers, many of whom are working on their BSNs, seemed irritated by this. They study during downtime, but I don't want to bring my texts to work, because I don't want them to think I feel superior (which I don't).
    Making matters worse, I drive a hybrid vehicle with an Obama bumper sticker. Oh, Lord, if anyone knows that is my car, I will be in trouble! I park in an unpopular lot.
    I really dislike keeping my mouth shut, but feel I must. I don't want to anger anyone, being so new at this job. I want to fit in, but fear I just don't. Should I voice my own opinions, or stay silent? I really like this beautiful facility and the nursing leadership. I just don't know how to stay true to myself while trying to become part of this group of nurses! Advice?
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  3. 5 Comments so far...

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    Doesn't matter where you work or what their stance. Discussing those subjects with co-workers in the work place is just a recipe for disaster. I never make any comment on those types of conversations other then "interesting" or some such neutral thing. And if i feel it is a "dangerous" type of conversation I just walk away because I want no part of it.

    You will face this issue in any work place and with all kinds of different viewpoints from one end of the spectrum to the other. I also never do politics on my FB page. I do have lively discussions with people in other formats that are safe.
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    I can identify with you, I worked for a few months in a REALLY conservative environment. I'm an atheist libertarian with tattoos, etc. I had to listen to a lot of racist, homophobic, xenophobic talk similar to what you hear. I totally get it. Here's some advice:

    1. Really assess how important it is to "fit in" with the group and if so, how much. The older I get and more experience I get in nursing, the less I give a fig about "fitting in." I show up on time, do my job well, politely say hello and goodbye, keep my mouth shut, don't rock the boat, help others where I can, go home and leave it there. You're not there to make friends. You're there to do a job, take good care of your patients, be a team player (professionally) and collect a paycheck. You can still be polite, smile, say hi, talk about the weather, whatever, without being a stuck up snob, or detached. I have been lunching alone for years, and don't give a rip. I have friends and a life outside of work.

    2. If they really pressure you to engage in these conversations, consider learning more about these people and the way they think. Part of the reason this country is so divided is because of this "us against them" mentality so many of us carry. These conservative people are just people, and likely products of their environment just like you are. I am neither right or left, (yet totally both) and frankly, I consistently see liberal/lefties having a harder time relating to their counterparts than the other way around. You can engage without being oppositional. I have friends who are super right wing conservative, and also some mega lefty tree huggers. I love both equally and completely understand why they think the way they think, even if I don't agree - and respect the crap out of it! Because I took the time to learn where they were coming from.

    I understand it's repellent when they present themselves so disrespectfully. You can pick your battles. Choose to detach and let it slide, or engage with curiosity. Or your 3rd choice is to stay angry, stay passive, be resentful, and stew in rage. If you're new, I'd be very careful about any reporting to management about this. Might wanna keep it on the DL for now.

    As for your appearance and age......well, at 33, you should be used to this by now. If you're as little as you say, being called "kiddo" and mocked for your looks/size should be old hat for you now and your coping skills about it well developed. You are too old for this to be anything new.
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    Mclennen,
    You are wise. I will take your comments to heart. Your first piece of advice (to assess the importance of fitting in) is well received. That makes me put things in perspective. Your last comment, concerning my appearance...well again, you're right. I am used to this by now. Being mocked doesn't become acceptable with age and "coping skills", however. When the tables are turned, I NEVER comment on someone else's weight or use condescending terms to refer to others. But for some reason, people feel inclined to comment on my appearance. It's unprofessional. That was my point. Believe me, I can handle this.
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    One of the many reasons that I became a nurse is that I thought that if someone takes the time to go to school for a degree, that they must me intelligent, well spoken, responsible individuals. Well honey child let me tell you, I was sorely mistaken. I have walked in on a many uncomfortable situations. I.e. nurses and aids eating patients food from their trays, a male nurse showing his Jacobs ladder to other nurses, nurses sitting and watching tv in a patients room, and nurses sleeping in patients rooms and staff always being consistently late for start of shift. Through all of this I learned to keep my head down and not get to close to anyone. Oh, and look for a new job, because, I believe that with groups of people like that, you are either in or out. And if you are thought of as trying to be better than them, then they could turn on you next.
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    Since you are in grad school, I am going to interject a little theory here that provides a perfect explanation to the OP's distress (feel free to nod off if you are not 'academically oriented' - LOL)

    Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Reasoning points out that there are different levels - from "patty cake" (I'll do the right thing because someone is watching) all the way to "principle-based" (I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, despite any contrary rules). If you put a person who is at a lower level (of moral reasoning) into a higher level group, s/he will eventually rise to the level of the group. If you put a higher level person into a lower level group, s/he will be very distressed and stressed out.... never able to adapt to the group, just getting more and more unhappy and headed to bahootie-ville unless s/he can emotionally detach. IMO, this is what the OP is experiencing.

    The only way to preserve your sanity is just to detach and let the bizarre discussions devolve into 'white noise' around you. So whenever you hear a crazy-making statement ("all small children deserve to be cared for by their own mothers.... unless of course they are on welfare, then they need to get a job and support themselves so we don't have to") just pretend that it's your mom telling you how to dress - and let it wash over you without penetrating your conscientiousness LOL. It works out OK. After a while, you'll just be considered eccentric or aloof.. not a bad thing, because you don't want to become part of "that group" anyway.

    For me, the deal-breakers that force me to react are always sexual harassment (wont' listen, refuse to condone or ignore) or disrespect of a co-worker's culture/ethnicity or any disrespect towards a patient. You'll have to draw your own lines in the sand.


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