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New Grad: How do I handle harsh criticism from other nurses?

Nurses   (1,412 Views | 19 Replies)
by Sunny-RN Sunny-RN (New) New Student

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Hello Everyone:

I am a brand new graduate and need some advice in dealing with harsh criticism. Specifically, criticism from my former coworker, a Med Surg RN. During nursing school, I worked as a CNA on a Med-Surg floor with this nurse. My goal was and still is to become an ICU nurse. Throughout my experience working on the unit, this nurse, in particular, has told me I would never be able to do critical care; that I wasn't cut out for the ICU. Now that I have graduated from school, she has become more harsh, stating that she hopes I can "just find a place" in nursing, implying that I'm not even good enough to be a nurse. She always says these things with a smile, and states she is "just being honest." She has called me "slow" and that I have "difficulty catching on." This is was her only basis for her opinion. My preceptor told me that Med-Surg would be a good place for me to start and that I have my "book knowledge down" and that I just needed experience. My grades in school were decent and not one of professors ever told me that I wasn't good enough to be a nurse. Rationally, I know that this is just one person's opinion, but it still hurts, especially since she has known me since before I was even accepted into nursing school. I worked hard during school and am proud of my achievement. I know that I have a place in nursing and I am going to pursue my dream of becoming an ICU nurse regardless of what she says. It's just that I can't shake this dirty feeling every time I interact with her. What do you think? How have you learned to handle hurtful RNs? I appreciate any and all advice/anecdotes.

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395 Posts; 6,464 Profile Views

She says something snarky like, "I hope you can just find a place in nursing."

You sweetly reply, "You're such an inspiration to me.  Your example shows me there's a place in nursing for everyone."

But say it reaaaaaallllly sweetly so she has no cause to complain.  

Sometimes people don't know what to do when you refuse to be baited by their backhanded insults, and instead take their concern at face value and act like they're being super sweet so you're just being super sweet back to them.

I know it hurts that she's being a jerk, but see if you can make a game of out-b*tch-speaking her.

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1 Follower; 3,343 Posts; 45,587 Profile Views

I think this nurse, who has seen you go from CNA to med/surg RN, with the potential or yearning, to be an ICU nurse, is jealous of you.

Ignore her, or smile and reply as turtlesRcool suggested.

Don't focus on being an ICU nurse right now. No one but the ICU and med/surg supervisors need to know anything about that.  Just focus on being the best med/surg nurse you can be.

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She sounds unstable and jealous.  Try to keep away from her.

Or respond as suggested above.

Or thank her for her encouragement and let her know how much she is helping you. 

She really sounds like she is either super egotistical or feels totally inadequate in her own work/life.

Ask her to explain why she says these things?  Why she thinks them.

Good luck.

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FolksBtrippin is a BSN, RN and specializes in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Public Health.

3 Followers; 1,702 Posts; 15,015 Profile Views

 Here's one way of dealing with her. 

"I don't find your feedback helpful because it doesn't contain practical advice. Maybe you're just slow and have a hard time catching on? I certainly do hope you find your way though. I'm sure there's a place for you in nursing."

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15 hours ago, turtlesRcool said:

I know it hurts that she's being a jerk, but see if you can make a game of out-b*tch-speaking her.

😂 No way. Why compete in that kind of game?!! It's always better to let the other person win that one. Never compete with mean.

 

1 hour ago, FolksBtrippin said:

Maybe you're just slow and have a hard time catching on? I certainly do hope you find your way though. I'm sure there's a place for you in nursing."

Again....no. See above.

 

1 hour ago, FolksBtrippin said:

"I don't find your feedback helpful

Now this is useful. There's nothing wrong with calmly saying something like, "As a new nurse I would love to benefit from helpful feedback, but it doesn't seem like your intention is to help me." Then just leave the area.

Get things squared away in your own head. Walk away/stay away from people who are not giving you helpful critiques, encouragement and practical advice. Don't base your sense of self-worth upon them. You will encounter any number of these types in nursing and/or in life, and you can't afford to feel poorly every time someone thinks it is their place to offer personal comments.

If people's motivation isn't to provide useful advice, practical help-- then they are saying something about themselves, not you.

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17 hours ago, brownbook said:

I think this nurse, who has seen you go from CNA to med/surg RN, with the potential or yearning, to be an ICU nurse, is jealous of you.

OP, can you clarify what your current job is?  Are you a GN who is still working as a CNA until you land your first RN job or are you now working as an RN on the floor you've previously worked as a CNA?

It seems like going from CNA to RN on the same floor can be a mixed bag.  Some people have an easy transition with a supportive staff who is excited to see them grow into more responsibility and the new RNs know where all the supplies are, know the unit culture, etc.  Others have a  harder time because their long-time colleagues feel somehow threatened.  Sometimes the other CNAs resent one of "their own" starting to delegate to them, and/or RNs can't stop seeing their new RN colleagues as CNAs.  

If you're in your first job search, it might be best to look for a job on another unit, since this RN seems to make you uncomfortable.  Not that you can't find ways to deal with her, but it might be easier if you just don't have to.  In that case, just try you best to put her out of your mind; her issues are her issues, not yours.

If you already have a job on that floor, find the tactic that works best for you.  I suggested the kill-em-with-sugar response because I'm comfortable with sarcasm, but others have offered more direct responses that you might be more comfortable with.  She says, "I'm only being honest."  You say, "maybe so, but your criticism is neither helpful nor asked for.  When I want your opinion, rest assured, I will ask for it.  Please don't give unsolicited criticism, advice, or opinions. It's not at all helpful."

In my experience, people who claim to be brutally honest enjoy the brutality every bit as much as the honesty.

18 hours ago, brownbook said:

 

Don't focus on being an ICU nurse right now. No one but the ICU and med/surg supervisors need to know anything about that.  Just focus on being the best med/surg nurse you can be.

Agreed.  Focus on the short-term goals.  Be the best at whatever job you have.  You just graduated.  The ICU will always be there.  You may not be ready for it right now, but that doesn't mean you won't be ready for it after you get more experience.

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TriciaJ has 39 years experience as a RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

12 Followers; 3,535 Posts; 36,267 Profile Views

Learn to sift the wheat from the chaff.  This person is not giving you harsh criticism; she's just being a b.  True criticism (even harsh) will give you something to learn from.  This person is just sliming you; that's why you feel dirty when you're around her.  It's her dirt you're picking up on.

I think Turtle's advice is right on.  Otherwise, just nod and verbally agree with everything your coworker says while mentally dismissing it.  She'll sooner or later figure out that she's blown the priviledge of being taken seriously by you.

Meanwhile, find some mentors who will give you solid advice and an accurate assessment of your progress.  Every new job has a coworker like yours.  Her behaviour is about her, not you.

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RNNPICU has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in PICU.

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I would really ignore this nurse. As you are getting ready to move into your new unit, people sometimes become very weird... You will be moving into a position from CNa to RN, perhaps she wishes she could start new all over again.  WHile I don't think i9t is jealousy, I thiink you are no longer her subordinate and it is difficult for her to see you in a new role.

I would NOT work on the unit she is on, rather find a different unit, heck even check out ICU if you want, there is a role for every nurse.

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Sour Lemon has 9 years experience.

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I think she probably doesn't like you for some other reason, and her passive aggressive "advice" is her way of  communicating that.

I think under your circumstances, I would just become "robot nurse". I'd say what absolutely needed to be said, and not a single word more. I'd do it with a flat affect and with no expression. When she said something friendly to me, she'd get a polite nod in return- no smile. When she said something rude, I'd briefly make eye contact and then look away without saying anything or showing anything.

I'm normally more assertive and direct, but as a new graduate at the mercy of everyone around me, I'd probably be more subtle and refrain from any observable conflict.

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"nursy" has 40 years experience as a RN and specializes in ICU, ER, Home Health, Corrections, School Nurse.

240 Posts; 959 Profile Views

Med surg is a very challenging environment for a new nurse. You will be much too busy to spend time worrying about what this person says.  And everyone's schedules are different, so you will not be there with her everyday.  Do not let one miserable human being dictate your mental state.   

Having said that, your first year (everyone's first year) will be very very hard, and at times you may feel like maybe this person is right.  Don't go there. There are a million posts on this forum of newbies having a hard time their first year, feeling like failures, etc etc.  So keep that in mind when things are tough.  You will make it, just stay away from negative people.

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Puppy Kisses specializes in RHIT with a crap load of medical experience..

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Everyone has a learning curve.  Everyday, you learn something new no matter how long anyone has been in their field.  I suggest you turn a deaf ear to this negativity and keep your dreams of becoming an ICU nurse in sight.  These are just words from a bitter person.  Don't let her in.

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