Published Apr 15, 2001
What can we do to combat bitching and backstabbing in the nursing profession? I realise that the cause of this behaviour is complex and includes oppression from the medical profession and the conditions we are forced to work in. However, in putting an end to infighting and young-gobbling it is not enough to work towards ending our oppression as nurses - we also must stop the cycle of abuse, which can only be achieved if we empower ourselves and others to change our ways.
Does anyone have some ideas as to how we can empower each other to end the cycle of abuse which we all know exists within the profession? Please share them...
Originally posted by Doc:What can we do to combat bitching and backstabbing in the nursing profession? I realise that the cause of this behaviour is complex and includes oppression from the medical profession and the conditions we are forced to work in. However, in putting an end to infighting and young-gobbling it is not enough to work towards ending our oppression as nurses - we also must stop the cycle of abuse, which can only be achieved if we empower ourselves and others to change our ways. Does anyone have some ideas as to how we can empower each other to end the cycle of abuse which we all know exists within the profession? Please share them...
It was refresing to see that someone else feels the same way, especially on the other side of the Earth.My theory is as humans, certain people are quite territorial about their work, especially in Critical Care. ER nurses are dark and sarcastic w/ hearts of gold. Most nurses are codependant, anyway. A new person comes along and these people put them through the ringer--"prove you're worthy of being here". In almost all departments and hospitals or clinics there are these "unwritten rules" that they impose on the 'new-hire' and unfortunately this person has to figure out what they are to fit in and not be rode like a circus elephant or be "written up" by totally arbitrary crap. These people used to be curious to me,now I'm angered by their passive - aggressive BS "games" they play w/ staff. This is not limited to nursing. I think this is a female thing. Things start to get competitive; instead of us being colleagues. An MD wouldn't dream up writng another doc up. He might say, "what an ass-hole" but that's the worst of it. They'll cover for them or say, "hey, that was dumb."
What to do to change this? I'm in this spot myself right now. I work in a Level 1 ER and the atmosphere is toxic. Mgmt is largely absent. Rudeness is accepted,this place is a people mill. "you're husband beats the shit out of you?" enter an insensitive, abrupt statement and that's our ER. I was told to emulate the style of biggest ***** w/ the most family/patient complaints because mgmt like her nursing style.....I'm ready to quit nursing. If I can't sit and answer questions or offer emotional suport or try to make a kid laugh, I want out. These people are not medical record #'s or illnesses.... sorry to ramble, you hit a hard spot and I thank for bringing it up.
Ragtopannie, as sad as it makes me, I think you hit the nail right on the head when you said you thought it was a female thing. I have always said I'd rather work with a thousand men than 20 women. And before I get yelled at for making a statement like that, think about it. Men are usually, shoot from the hip, pull no punches, tell it like it is. Whereas women, will say one thing to your face, then rip your guts apart behind your back. Men confront situations much more readily than women do. Women have a tendency to gather in groups to discuss, which turns into a verbal lynching mob. If one woman has it out for you, look out cause she'll spread her opinion until everyone knows how she feels and she'll do her best to sway them to her point of view. Men, they say what they have to say, and then get on with life. I have met a few men that hold grudges but for the most part, they'll say, "Hey, you really @#%$&* me off today and I didn't like it." It's all out in the open and life goes on. I have actually seen some of the nurses I have worked with, and this isn't limited just to nurses, but they will decide they don't like someone based on how they dress, their hair and other petty details. Guys will accept easier and aren't usually as judgemental, unless of course they're wanting to date you, then that's a whole different ballgame. What I'm talking about is accepting co-workers. We have to start realizing that everyone doesn't have the same sense of style, like the same things or behave the same way. We are all supposed to be unique, because that's how God created us. If we were all supposed to be alike, then we would have been clones and wouldn't that be boring??? We have to learn to compromise with each other and then we can bring out the best in each other. Having an issue with someone because they don't do their job by proper standards is one thing, but to pick them apart because their makeup is too dark, their skirt is to short or their hair is not just perfect, that's the problem we have to work on. And I will admit that I have made snap judgements in the past that I later regretted. I'm trying to work on judging less and understanding and accepting more. Sort of a "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" attitude.
The nicest part of being in our chosen career is being able to move to different departments or different job sites. When I first entered nursing, I went to ICU. Talk about territorial nurses! Was set up because I didn't fit their mold. Was devastated when after 3 months of training, I was told to to pack up & leave that hospital. They literally told me I would not be accepted in any other department of that particular hospital. I was an excellent student & was too cautious when I started out compared to the younger, new RN's that plunged in & took the "bull by the horns". I did no harm to my patients. My crime was I was too timid,too cautious & a minority. I was told during my training by my 1st preceptor that the RN prior to me was also a minority & she didn't make it. That was the time when there was an over abundance of nurses. The hospital could pick & choose. I was demoralized. Wanted to quit nursing all together until I got a hold of my senses. I decided NO ONE will ever do anything to me that undermines my self-esteem & capabilities. The way I see it, that hospital lost a great nurse. I don't mean to inflate myself,but once in awhile, it's good to pat ourself in the back. I've learned & experienced so much. I really do love nursing & am gratified by it. There are also days when I could scream...& I do (privately).
The earlier days have taught me to be patient, kind & give guidance to our new RN's. To this day, I continue to do so...because one of these days, I or my love ones, will need their expertise, kindness & patience.
Passing off these problems to the misconception that they are limited to nursing and, since nurses are generally women, it therefore must be that women are the offenders is NOT based on fact but narrowminded reasoning. I am an RN with 32 years of experience in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, community health, to name a few. After my first 10 years of nursing and working with only one male nurse every now and then, I left nursing to work in the business field [the problems you all complain about in this career are not new by any means and were around probably before you were born]. I worked as a temp in a section of manufacturing that was occupied almost exclusively by males. I was NOT impressed by what I saw. There was alot of cattiness, back-biting, jealousy, back-stabbing, etc. etc. and it was not limited to pettiness but was mostly aimed at DESTROYING someone. These males went for the Jugular and were relentless. They for the most part did not face each other and honestly state their differences and come to a reasonable relationship. They were dirty, underhanded, dishonest, deliberately withheld information, would band together against one poor slob, whatever it took to destroy someone. As a temp I worked at several big name companies over the 8 years I worked engineering and found the same things wherever I went. Face the facts, this is not a nursing/female thing or a male thing - it is a PEOPLE thing. I have read this in several postings here and am amazed that this ignorance still persists among those in a profession who are so well educated about human conditions!
No, this is not a woman problem. Men may shoot straught from the hip more often, but they also get into fist fights more. The only reason this behaviour continues is because we allow it. I say put up or shut up. You have to decide if you want to put up with backbiting or do something about it. The vast majority of us just put up with it. I believe people can only treat you like crap if you let them. I just try to be nice to others and confront those who are mean to me. You'd be surprised how much backstabbers hate confrontation (there's a reason they never say anything to your face). I say confront and accept apologies graciously if they are offered, if not ignore that nurse and try to stay supportive of others.
One nurse I worked with as a new grad was terrible. It started with her making snide comments behind my back. I ignored it until it got to the point I couldn't take it anymore. I know this isn't professional, but when she started making snide comments to me in front of a patient I pulled her to the nurses station and let her know what I was feeling. I wasn't her employee and I didn't need her approval or care about her opinion. She left me alone soon after that.
I worked at a CCU with many personalities that, "ate their young". We had an oncology nurse who decided she wanted to transfer to this busy open heart recovery unit. She was not coming up to speed and the regular staff were busy complaining and finding fault. I discovered this nurse had a wonderful relationship with her peers in oncology and was deemed to be one of their best nurses. They truly felt a loss with her leaving. Excellent skills with the patient and family and compassionate to all she met. She ended up leaving CCU and returned to her oncology unit. Managers, peers and co-workers need to recognize when a nurse is "out-of her/his- element". Re-assignment and transfers should occur without back-stabbing and fault finding. She was never a bad nurse, she was in a bad position. She tried and it didn't work out, nothing more! I now work with this philosophy.
There are no bad nurses, just nurses in the wrong position!!
If we could remember that, we would be better at promoting each other. We can break this cycle. Besides, I am full. I can't eat anymore!!
I think that most of times backstabbing comes from fear. Nursing technology changes and some feel threatened with new nurses because they may know more, so instead of using them for knowledge, they try to belittle them in front of others.
Most of all, you should have fun at work. If you are not having fun, then you are in the wrong profession.
If this has been going on since nursing became nursing, then how come we can not find an answer to the question. How do we end the cycle. I am now in a position of change. Our hospital due to budget restraints and insurance problems, combined floors, thus combining specialties. Our patient loads not only increased, but the patient modality increased. What I am saying is now our patients that are on the floor need more intensive care and some should be in units or on monitors, but do not fit the insurance criteria. I went from neuro and neuro intensive care to a combination of those with med surg, renal and other specialties. We were not oriented to this floor nor were they oriented to neuro. When asked for neuro help, I do try to explain in a way that orients the nurse to that field. For the most part some of the other fields do the same. But, the ones that don't because that is their floor make it almost impossible to do the sometimes impossible job we are all doing. I am a target now. Why? I don't know. Everything I do or say is put under a microscope. Any thing that can be reported is. Any thing that can be written up is. I am to the point were I will leave my position. Not just because all this slander and witch hunting against me. But, because the stress of trying to watch everything I do is beginning to interfer with my patient care. None of us are perfect. But, to have some one always hunting for something is completely nerve racking. I have been in this field of medicine longer than I had planned because I respect nursing in and of itself. Nurses are the back bone of medicine. But, I do not have the back bone to go through this any longer. Could I retaliate. Yeah. Will I. No. If I find some one else did not do some thing I will try to do it myself. As long as it benefits the patient. Will I take notes about what other nurses don't get done during their shifts so they can be reported or written up. No. I don't have the time. Not with the patient loads we carry. Without sufficent help on the floor, or no help. Try 6-7 or sometimes more. One starts to go bad. You have two post ops, one with a CSF leak, the other on CBI with continuous blood clots needing irrigation. Add to that the three totals that have to be turned every two hours, and there is no aids or orderlies to help. What are the chances when you start to leave there is an order written at 1400 you did not see, or a three o'clock med you did not start and you are suppose to give report at 1445. We need to pull together now more than ever. Yes if the nurse is continuously making errors, or endangers the patient, something needs to worked out. But, is back stabbing, rumor spreading, the only thing these professionals can come up with. Back to the original thought. How can this cycle be stopped. Help us all.
Well, I have to admit...taking a 'cue' from my male counterparts has helped loads when it came to a particular incident a couple of weeks ago with a nurse-eater. I hunted his a** down after the incident was over (he had the NERVE to chew me out AT THE BEDSIDE for something I didn't even DO!!), and said to him in the lowest, nastiest, but calmest tone possible.."Don't you EVER speak to me that way at the bedside AGAIN. If you have a problem with something that's going on or with my care, you pull me aside and we can discuss it IN PRIVATE. Don't you EVER do that again, you hear me?" Then I walked away. He was slightly taken aback, but he sure as hell didn't have the stupidity to cross me again. I've done/said similar things before...I find confronting someone on their asenine behavior usually puts an end to it post haste. When I was new on my unit, some of the old hags there complained that my personality didn't 'mesh well' with theirs. My nm pulled me into her office to 'discuss' these 'problems' with her. 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.
For those nurses/students that simply don't have the intestines to stand up for themselves, I will help them out if I feel it's warranted. As someone who's been the 'eaten' one on more than one occasion, boy was I happy to know that my co-workers had my back!! It also gave me the nudge I needed to tell the nurse-eater to go take a long walk off a short pier the next time it happened.
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).]
Kday. I want to be just like you when I grow up. haha actually I am 32. but astudent nurse and the most timid person you will ever meet. Could you spare just an ounce of assertiveness. haha
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