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How do you deal with lazy co-workers?


Specializes in Med-Surg Nursing.

I have been an RN for 4 years and have always considered myself to be a "team" player. One of my fellow RN's who I work with on a regular basis, just does not seem to be as helpful. The other night I was extremely busy and asked her politely if she would mind attempting to re-start an IV for me. I had already tried myself and was unsuccessful. She said Oh I have a dressing change to do. But at the time she was just standing at the nurses station doing absolutely nothing. This made me very angry as I offer my assistance to her when she is busy and I am not. It makes me want to just not offer my assistance to her any more. She gets her work done but NEVER offers to help anyone else who might be in need. There have been numerous times where I have noticed her sitting at the computer playing solitaire when the rest of us are running around like chickens with our heads cut off! What should I do? Do I confront her? I am not very good at confronting people as I like to avoid conflict whenever possible. Or do I just not offer my help anymore? What would you suggest?

Thank you for your input.


I would LOVE suggestions too, kaknurse, I'm going through the same thing.

I was very busy one night. I was trying to finish my charting, but the call lights were going off every 2 minutes. And my co-worker (bad choice of wording) was sitting there reading the Sunday paper! After I answered the call light about 10 times I finally said it is your turn I am not answering it again. And it took her a good minute before she got up of her a$$. I know this was probably not the best way to deal with her but I was fed up.

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

I'm hoping that someone will have a better answer than I have, but I tend to make a point of asking for help when I see that they are sitting, and can't possibly say they are too busy. Usually other nurses take courage and ask too. If I am swamped I ask if they would take on my lightest patient as it seems they have things under control, and I am 2h behind. I have also been known to breeze through the nursing station and say, "Hey, **, you working today?"

Where I work if you aren't too busy and everyone else is working you will get the next admission. If you are a real jerk no one will have time to help with your paperwork either.

In some of the best positions that I have held, the head nurse was very approachable. Not to be a tattle-tell, but it can be brought to the HN's attention, who can handle it in general conversation in a meeting or personally with the individual who has the habit of not responding to co-workers requests for help or for ignoring call-lights.

If there are unit meetings, it can be brought up in the general course of the meeting without pointing out any one person (which can save face for the offenders). Everyone is able to start on the same page, so to speak, knowing what the HN expects from employees on your ward. And that individual can hear for themselves that their behavior is impacting the morale of the floor, especially if several individuals speak up and agree with the person that brings the topic up. When this approach is used, I feel it is important for the HN (or a chosen delegate) to follow up at subsequent meetings to ensure that this is being reinforced, or to report improvements and praise the group for a job well done.

I have to admit to having this complaint as well--and I am sure that there are times when others felt that I wasn't being as helpful as they felt that I should be. But for the most part, sometimes we all require a reminder that we need to be more considerate to both our co-workers and to the patients.

Years ago I worked with a nurse who was perceived by management as being extremely efficient and organized. She achieved this by diligently avoiding ever helping out a co-worker. Eventually, she exercised the Peter Principle and rose to the level of her incompetence. It was a glorious moment for the rest of us. I'm sure my Karma suffered. Oh, well.

being a nursing student, I get to change teams a lot, hence meet many people. I hate to admit it, but there hasn't been one nursing team that I was on that didn't have a "problematic" person or situation! I have been confronted with nurses that don't seem to do much and don't give a hand when it is needed.

The last situation of the sort I have seen was handled grandly in my opinion : the head nurse planned a mandatory team meeting to discuss many things, amongst others, the situation of this nurse. People were finaly able to say what was on there mind and what could be done. There was no voice raising, but only adult discussion. The problem ended up being that there were personal problems that this nurse did not want to burdden the others with, but was overtired and could not think straight to get organised and realise that the others needed help. Knowing thisk, the head nurse was able to get the person help, a couple weeks off work and came back rested and ready to take on the job.

OK. That's one specific situation. But if the head nurse hadn't taken the time to listen, the situation would not have been solved and would probably still be going on.

My opinion in a situation like this one is be honest and talk about it with someone that has the capacity to change things. It's not easy but in the long run is better. ;)

Kelly, I would love to know how to deal with 'co-workers', for a lack of better wording, like that myself. Being a CNA in a Nursing Facility I know that my duties are not as invloved as yours, but lazy co-workers that feel that they are above potting the residents and answering call lights in a timely matter really ticks me off. Am I wrong is assuming that it takes EACH and EVERY ONE of us as a team to take the best possible care of the residents/patients.

Good luck with the situation and always remember YOU are the one that makes the difference in the quality of care patients get when you have to work with lazy people.

Teresa :)

Kelly, I happen to work nights where we have a pretty good team. However, the day crew is a much different animal. I would suggest you talk to the person directly first. Be as diplomatic as possible, choose your words carefully and that may be all you need to do (not that you won't see some backsliding at times). Then if it continues, like Rita Marie said, go up the ladder. I say this because I see many at work complain about others more often than I see them talk TO OTHERS first and at least try to work things out. It's challenging, but helps to work on effective communication and will help to be assertive (IMHO).

Some people I think get tunnel vision and don't think to ask others if they need help. THey may feel they will be unorganized if they take on more, I'm not sure. Then there are some who are down right stinking lazy as you-know-what!

Huganaide, you are not wrong at all...it takes everyone to give great patient care! I totally agree with you.

I have to admit, if I was at my wits end, I would not hesitate with canoehead's comment, "Hey, **, you working today?" , but it would probably work against me LOL.


Good luck!


I have never had a problem calling lazy nurses on their behavior and have found it works well. I still laugh about back when I worked as a care aid and one of my patients soiled himelf. I put on fresh attends and then called for a nurse to help me change the bottom sheet. She actually thought we should leave it for the day shift. I just said something like "why? You're not busy, I can hear you gossiping at the nurses station.". She looked at me like I was a complete ***** but she did help me. I could care less what she thinks of me and make it very clear that those who give no help will get no help when they are busy.

I agree with fergus. Call the person out, preferably with witnesses. Try to teach by example. If you have the time volunteer to do something for another nurse, frequently. If all else fails go to the cafeteria. Get one of those small packs of salt and tape it to the wall at the station. This is to ward off "slug nurses". Inevitably one of them sitting and staring at the wall will ask what it's for. Good luck, Cannie


Specializes in Med-Surg Nursing.

Thanks to everyone for their input.

I just got home about a half hour ago from an Extremely busy evening shift. We started out the shift with 17 going to 19 pts. There were 3 RN's assigned to our unit. Plus there were 2 new admissions (directs from the doc's office). I started out with 7 patients(including one of the new admissons). Had to start an IV on her, get her meds caught up. Thank GOD she came with orders from her doctor. Then, I had one of my pt's discharged and another pt had to be transferred to the in-patient Skilled Nursing Unit, at or before 6pm. I had to get all the paper work in order for that patient and still finish my admission. Then at 7pm-the admitting office called with the 4th admit of the night! Well guess who got to do that one! ME!!!!

At that point, I just lost it and had a nervous breakdown...was saying at the nurses station that I will not take this admission(In front of family members). Then I just started to cry! That has NEVER happened in my 4 year career. I usually handle stress very well. The past 2 weeks on my unit and shift have been so very busy. We ended up getting a total of 6 admissions, 3 pt's discharged and 2 transferred to other places. Everyone was busy!

The nursing sup,. was called up and I talked with her for a few minutes bawling the whole time! I told her that I think that I am in desperate need of a vacation as my vacation request got denied in July(along with another RN's on my shift) because we are down too many staff members. Plus in addition to the teamwork thing. But all the RN's were busy as each of us ended up with having to take 2 admits for the shift. So at 7:30 I left the floor for 10 minutes, was dying for a smoke. Never did get to eat anything. Problem is, I believe this whole situation could have easily been avoided if staffing would have started us out with a 4th RN to begin with. Yeah there were possible transfers but what if those people wouldn't have been able to be transferred? When they do staffing, their only concern is how many bodies (pts) ore on the floor not with acuity. I work on a cardiac flooor where a pt can go bad in a New York Minute.

I am soo stressed and have another eight hour shift Thursday before my day off on Friday. We haven't had a good evening in over a month. I think that I will be taking with my head nurse soon and tell her that I need a vacation or else I am gonna crack.

I felt soooo bad that I got that upset and flew off the handle in such a baad way but I couldn't help it. I had reached my breaking point and it scared me.

Anyhow, as far as this nurse goes that I was referring to in my original thread, I said to her tonight in the middle of my fit(through the tears) that it don't help when I am busy that nobody offers their assistance and her reply was, "well tonight we are all busy" but there have been times when she hasn't been busy and not once has she offered her assitance. So I have decided that she can help herself and I am not gonna offer any help to her any more unless she asks. And management wonders why we cant keep RN's on my unit.!!!

Thanks for letting me vent and thanks again for the suggestions.


NicuGal, MSN, RN

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PACU. Has 30 years experience.

We are a group of about 90 nurses for our unit and we are all pretty direct...if you can't help out or just do something because you "don't feel like it" then you can expect to have people say something to you, then go to the UM, then get written up. When we have 50 kids and 1/2 of them are ventilated and really sick we don't have time to waste...and the slackers hear it. Also,.,..if it is busy and the charge nurse sees you idling somewhere for no reason..you can bet you will be found a job to do!

I can't stand lazy people!


Specializes in ER, PACU, OR.


I walk up to them ind give them something to do! LMAOROTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Canoehead-- Could we possibly work at the same place? Sounds a lot like where I work, and being from the same state! I'm in central Maine at a small rural hospital. I do know exactly what you have described. Been there, done that!

Hi kaknurse. I'm sorry you're feeling so much pressure in your job. It seems to be par for the course everywhere as health care goes through trials and tribulations. I do hope that you are able to get relief this weekend and be able to start anew the next time you go to work.

One of the things I've observed with bedside or direct care nursing is that it seems easy for some nurses and nursing staff to hide their mediocrisy behind other staff. I agree with Mustangsheba on this one. If these same nurses such as the nurse that you and others described in your posts were to work in a more independent role that measured quantity as well as quality, they would not make it.

I have to say that I have always been willing to help others out unless I have a crisis of my own. Believe me, I have worked with many lazy "coworkers". In the past I have always "killed them with kindness" by either answering call bells, starting IVs, etc and then I let them know that I have done this for them. After a few times of me helping them without being asked, they will normally reciprocate. Of course, there are always a few that won't budge.

Although I'm only in nursing school, I have been working in the medical field for over 10 years. Unfortunately, there will always be slackers. I, for one, can't stand to do nothing and if there is something I can do, I will. I'm sure that there are other nurses on your shift that feel the same about this co-worker. I personally would see how those of us nurses who are working act as a team, and I would first help out my teammember before helping out the slacker. Hopefully they will get the hint to join the team. I wouldn't cry over them either.


Specializes in Pediatric Rehabilitation. Has 20 years experience.

Why is it that management always thinks these slackers are very good time managers? Then the nurse that offers help to everyone and is staying ot to chart is "riding the clock".

I agree with confronting the slacker out loud. You'll be surprised how quick coworkers will follow your cue and begin confronting them also.

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