How do you handle co-workers who are extremely dramatic and are easily stressed?


  • Specializes in Telemetry, correctional.

I went from working in telemetry to now working at a detention facility. I don't understand why some of the nurses that I work with can become so easily stressed out in this type of environment. The detainees are not dying. Education, pill passing and lot's of charting is involved in detention nursing. Keep in mind, I don't work in a prison, I work with low level inmates and detainees.

I got my ear chewed off my last shift from this nurse that was so stressed out with all the little busy work. She had a terrible frown on her face the entire shift with just a nasty attitude. I just couldn't understand. She's been working there much longer than me and she plans to move and start telemetry nursing. I just don't know how that's going to work out on her end.

How do you deal with co-workers who are like this? I just want to tell them to sit down and relax or go home!

macawake, MSN

2,141 Posts

Has 15 years experience.

I got my ear chewed off my last shift from this nurse that was so stressed out with all the little busy work. She had a terrible frown on her face the entire shift with just a nasty attitude. I just couldn't understand.

How do you deal with co-workers who are like this? I just want to tell them to sit down and relax or go home!

I'd need more details before I could even begin to answer your question. Did she do something or say something to you that made you want to tell her to relax or go home? Having a frown on one's face is hardly a capital offense and how exactly was the nasty attitude demonstrated?

I don't know your coworker, she may well be easily stressed, but what I'm asking is how does it affect your workday and does it have to affect you?

Or could you decide to not let it get to you and simply go about your own business?

OrganizedChaos, LVN

1 Article; 6,883 Posts

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab. Has 10 years experience.

There is drama everywhere you go. I have worked in a high level prison, a local jail & a detention center. At all three places there was drama.

I have to say the detention center had the most drama out of the three. I hated working there & I was glad I left.

If you haven't been working there that long, it's not the work that gets stressful but the environment. Working with inmates gets very stressful. They play mind games & try to trick you every single moment. She maybe irritated from an inmate but taking it out on you in that form. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that maybe what's happening.

Either try talking to her in a polite manner or just ignore her. Just because she's in a bad mood doesn't mean you have to be.

Has 6 years experience.

I probably fall somewhere in the middle as far as showing stress at work. I do have a tendency to complain when things get rough, but I also work with people who appear to be a super-exaggerated version of stressed out (seeming over nothing).

I just listen to them and say things like, "It's a crazy night!" or, "Only four more hours!". I also help them if they're genuinely slammed and I'm available.

Some people just think out loud and venting helps them manage their anxiety.


623 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Documentation Specialist, LTC.

Sometimes people have things going on outside of work we have no idea they are dealing with, so they may come across as overly dramatic and over reactive to every little thing. You never know.

Specializes in Critical care.

I deal with it by modeling (Not THAT kind, haha) but I've found that by displaying calm responses to issues, regular coworkers begin adopting the same approach. I also try to keep the problem THEIRS and not OURS when that can apply.

Edit: Double yes to the idea that outside stressors get brought to work often. Again, try to frame that as THEIR problem while cutting then some slack. If it's a daily thing and you have that kind of work relationship, then talk to them about it.


7,735 Posts

Specializes in retired LTC.

Your coworker is burnt-out. You did say that's she's been there longer than you and that she's moving on. She's just NOT handling the stress well.

I may be bucking the tide here, but, just hope that you don't get that burnt-out 'when the going gets rough' for you. Unless she's doing something that actually jeopardizes your job performance or client care, then just cut her some slack. She'll be moving on soon enough.


1 Article; 482 Posts

Specializes in M/S, Pulmonary, Travel, Homecare, Psych.. Has 12 years experience.

Ok. I absolutely must lead with: I'm not advocating that you do this!

While in nursing school, I earned spending money by doing a 'workstudy' job. If you've never heard of it, that is basically working for the school and doing odds&ends type duties for a few hours each week.

My job was to type lectures/reading material and all sorts of things into a program (I believe it was called Shark, or maybe Jaws) that would then take what you wrote and 'read' it aloud to a blind person. The program file would be emailed to the person in need of it and they could then study.

Easy enough job, and the people who ran the office were a lot of fun.

A girl who (sigh) was working on her prerequisites for nursing school and I both performed this service as our workstudy position. I will call her Betty.

I was often bored with the work, but it was so stress free and mindless that I was content and kept the position. Betty was another story. I don't know how, but she seemed stressed and on the verge of a panic attack every day. She'd stand up from her computer and go to the secretary's desk practically every half hour to ask a question about........well, I don't know what. And that was on good days. Sometimes, I swear, she was stressed about something every five minutes.

On these days, when Betty was just out of control with her questions, I could sense the secretary was having to bite her tongue. A part of me wondered how she kept herself from saying something to Betty that she'd end up regretting.

I found out how.

On one such day, the secretary asked Betty to get lunch for her. There were a number of fast food places right there around the campus and Betty never minded doing the food run. But something about what the secretary ordered caught my attention, especially since she was being so particular and specific as she told her what she wanted:

"Go to the McDonald's on the corner of the main road. Don't go anywhere else. They're the only ones who do my burgers just how I like them. I want a Whopper, with cheese, no onions. May as well make it a value meal, I love McDonald's fries. Coke to drink please. But I want a Whopper, not a Big Mac or Fish Fillet or anything else. Just a Whopper."

You know, she smiled the whole time she told Betty all of this too.

I kept to myself, kept typing, and the shift ended. Betty had not returned. She'd been gone over an hour. I decided to point out the mistake the secretary made with her order to her as I left.

"You know, Whoppers are Burger King, not McDonald's. Did you want a Quarter Pounder?"

"No. That's why I made sure she understood, I only want a Whopper." Her smile was back, the one that was there while she gave Betty her order.

"But they don't make Whoppers. You know, she's been gone an hour too. I wonder where she went?" There was no Burger King anywhere near the campus.

"Oh, probably doing the same as last time. You know, the first time I sent her for food with the same order, she was gone two and a half hours. It was heaven."

"What'd she do then?"

"Stood in line at McDonald's forever fighting with the staff insisting they make a Whopper. They made her leave, she walked around for a while and went back. Finally, she came back with..........a burger that resembles what looked just like what it was. McDonald's best attempt at mimicking the Whopper."


Yeah, it was the secretary's way of being free from Betty's non stop question asking and drama. It was the equivalent of telling someone to sit in the corner of a round room.

Unfortunately, that day was the last day she could use this technique to manage Betty on the bad days. Betty was banned from that McDonald's.

TriciaJ, RN

4,298 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 42 years experience.

Betty was planning to go to nursing school? Not even.


1 Article; 1,101 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Rehab. Has 5 years experience.

I know that in certain situations, it's very hard or nearly impossible to do so (like I've had a CNA or two who made my day much worse many times, but I had to work with 'em for a while) ... but I try hard to avoid problematic co-workers as much as possible. Hmmm - I do the same thing with a few relatives. :banhappy: Thank Gawd I do have some (co-workers AND relatives) whom I get along with very well.


144 Posts

I look at them with my sympathetic eyes and say, "Are you ok?" as motherly as I can. I'm not being fake but I don't take it personally. The more you accept other people's "uniqueness", the better off you are.

nutella, MSN, RN

1 Article; 1,509 Posts

To be honest - I mostly ignore those things because my immediate team is free of drama. What sometimes happens is that somebody who is stressed out and makes everything an emergency tries to suck me into their world by calling a lot, trying to push their agenda, and what not.

I just stay calm,model calm behavior, do not take on their stuff and do my job. Sometimes I set some boundaries or I re-focus that person but I am usually friendly, calm, and helpful. Mind you - that is something that did not come easy to me as I used to be more outspoken and more direct. It is easy to get sucked into another person's drama/stress/anxiety because they tend to circle in their own reality and make it their mission to make it your mission....People can get quite unpleasant at times when they feel that they have a pressing need for something that I do not support. Sometimes just saying "I am sorry you are stressed, it seems to be a busy day" and allow for some empathic listening and them venting can make a huge difference.

One place I worked at years ago had a nurse who was always high drama every single day because she had anxiety and was basically overwhelmed with the workload. The team was very tight knit and responsive so when she would ask for people to help her with this or that people would usually help because she was stressed. After a while it became her go-to strategy to ask a variety of other nurses to do tasks for her resulting her getting out on time every single day, while the other nurses usually stayed longer like half an hour or so. It did not take long for everybody to figure out that they had been enabling her and she never developed any strategies to deal with her assignments. They stopped doing tasks for her as they felt used and she left shortly after to find a different job with less stress.