Should I stay or should I go?

Updated | Posted

Specializes in ICU RN. Has 5 years experience.

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A little about me: I have been a nurse 3.5 years ( 1.5 years as a medsurg/tele RN right out of nursing school, and a little over 2 years as an ICU RN). I currently work at a large comprehensive stroke center, level 2 trauma, and cardiac center. I am currently working in the neuro/trauma/medical surgical ICU unit. I consider myself a quiet passive toddler nurse now instead of a baby and need advice about what I would consider dealing with certain individuals being bullies toward me, toxic young nurse cliques, and potentially misguided management (this is the nicest way I can put it)? I am at a loss and have been feeling extremely depressed and have started taking meds for almost a year now to help when I go to work. This is my first job and hospital and know for a fact this is not my forever home but I’m not sure if leaving right now is the best answer? 

The hospital I work at hires a lot of new nurses straight out of nursing school primarily from this one school. More than half the hospital graduated from this one university for nursing. I was one nurse from that school the went and directly got hired as a new grad and only know the current hospital I work at. I work nights which is where most of my stress and problem lies. My unit is RUN by young nurses who think they are the boss and the best to the point where the old nurses don’t get involved with them and may be victims of bullying/gossip/bystander syndrome themselves. About 80% of the nurses on nights are under 35. Currently I’m mostly friends with the older nurses waiting to retire or respiratory therapists on my unit due to the toxicity. Let’s just say our unit is the greys anatomy of our hospital too and is knows for the ICU rns being bullies...Don’t get me wrong there are but very few wonderful and kind young ICU RN’s on my unit (that are in the cliques) though I don’t hang out with them outside (which I’m okay with), they do extend a hand to be professional and help me at work if I ask without disregarding me.

When I started ICU coming from the floor, I asked a bunch of questions since I was a new nurse entering a specialty unit. This has given the whole unit, including the day shift that I am apparently stupid. My mom told me that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The unit also supposedly encourages questions when you are new if you don’t know something... here’s the fallacy...the more questions you ask apparently the lower your IQ and what grade of stupid you are. So my IQ is probably below 50 at this point even after 2 years.  

The young ICU RN’s pick up the new grads every 4 months and tell them I’m stupid and not trust their patients with me for whatever reason. They coagulate together since the new nurses want to fit in even though they aren’t necessarily bad people but become a bystander. There is an actual circle of young people invite except me and a very few other young nurses not invited (very exclusive) to outside work gatherings. These nurses are also favored by management even though they have done sketchy things. Not to mention breaking more than one nurse in California and get away with it even prior to COVID. They also have a tendency to give me my break last coincidentally or forget to break me so I have to ask...this was an issue before that I had to bring to my manager who stated it’s my responsibility to remind the breakers to give me a break even if it’s there only job to break.

The few coworkers that were nice young ICU rns all left and their reason was due to the bullying on the unit. My coworker who got hired said one of the interview questions was: though we don’t approve of bullying, our unit is know for bullying, how are you going to handle working in this situation knowing that? It’s been addressed to management multiple times not just by me but the other people who have left that there was bullying and they tried addressing it before quiting. It didn’t help those people and actual put a target on those people and mine for being trouble makers for the unit. So keep your head down the people who still are there say... Also, if you speak to management in a closed supposed safe space, they disrespect your feelings and gossip about it. 

I don't like coming into work anxious and crying. The reason I still work at the hospital is because I love the patient population, I love caring for people (poop and other bodily fluids and all), the critical thinking aspect, adrenaline, and supposed educational opportunities to grow. Honestly the few young and the older nurses make work bearable when I get lucky to work with them. Do I suck it up since it sounds like no matter what this is an issue every where with ICU or quit?  Would hospitals even hire me as an ICU RN with just two years ICU? I would try to travel but I have responsibilities to my family. Am I being too dramatic and just keep my head down and let them continue to talk? I would be grateful for any suggestions or even someone else sharing a similar experience. I always remind myself that “hey, you can’t be the first, only, and last nurse to be experiencing this can you?”

If you read the post in it’s entirety, thank you very much for taking the time to read this!

JKL33

6,090 Posts

Oof...here's your problem in a nutshell:

58 minutes ago, Wandering-night said:

I consider myself a quiet passive toddler nurse now instead of a baby

More later.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 17 years experience. 5 Articles; 10,686 Posts

Moved to Critical Care

JKL33

6,090 Posts

@Wandering-night,

What these people are doing isn't right and neither is the way it is being handled.

Understand that those who behave in the way you describe do not have decent self-esteem or do not feel secure in some way. They bolster themselves through activities and behaviors in attempt to convince themselves that they are better than so-and-so. They often only feel good by believing that others are less-than.

Every thing I am writing is with a spirit of help and of kindness, but I'll be straightforward:

You need to develop and self-assurance and confidence and project it outward within a context of professionalism and pleasant assertiveness, along with general human kindness. That sounds like a lot, but it's doable.

It begins with stopping this immediately:

13 hours ago, Wandering-night said:

I consider myself a quiet passive toddler nurse now instead of a baby

You were never a baby while you were a nurse. Never. You were a novice when you started out, but that is not a helpless baby. You also are not now a toddler of any sort. These descriptors of yourself as a professional are inappropriate. The way you think of yourself matters greatly with respect to how others will regard you. Even if we don't say these things out loud we tend to project them. You have to stop this train of thought. You are an adult professional Registered Nurse.

This has been my experience: With few exceptions, those often thought of as "bullies" aren't that tough at all.  Their game is pretty short if they can't "get to" their target (upset them) fairly quickly.

The first thing I would try (and try hard) is to both figuratively and literally stand up straight, put your shoulders back, make good eye contact, speak with a steady, neutrally-toned voice, smile, and comport yourself as professionally as you can. Don't shirk away from people, don't apologize for everything under the sun. Don't feel bad when you hear, through reports/gossip, that they have badmouthed you. That's their problem. It isn't even wrong to pity them, for they are pathetic.

I can almost promise you that you are inherently stronger than these people. BELIEVE IT.  I know you are, because you understand that kindness is a strength, not a weakness, and you are internally strong enough to not have to use the "crutch" of abusing others in order to feel good about yourself. So don't sell yourself short. You aren't a baby, you aren't a toddler, and you actually are not weak. You can do this.

You are there to take care of patients as best you possibly can. Focus on that and on cultivating your professional demeanor.

And if the place is notoriously toxic and no one is going to do anything about it, leave. Life really is too short.

Best of luck. 👍🏽

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 41 years experience. 4,291 Posts

I second everything JKL said.  You are an adult; you are a professional nurse.  One nurse with quiet dignity is worth five silly schoolgirls who can't seem to grow up emotionally.

Developing assertiveness will help you in all aspects of your life, whether you stay or go.

The thing that really stands out for me is an interview question such as "How will you handle bullying since we know it's going on?"  That just blows my mind.

You have enough experience to get a different job somewhere.  Anywhere will be less toxic than what you've described.  Good luck.

JBMmom, MSN, NP

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 1,944 Posts

You already have a couple good responses, so I don't have much to add. You know that you have two options at this point. You have enough experience to apply for a job in another hospital/area if that's what you want. Not knowing the situation where you are I can't advise you on that. You can also stay, but you need to start standing up for yourself. As has already been stated, the need to bully comes from a place of insecurity. You need to be confident in yourself and not allow yourself to be bullied. Chances are if you call them out once or twice, in an appropriate, professional manner, you will find that the tone may change. 

Don't apologize for asking questions. Don't apologize for doing your job. People that bully eat up the slightest hint of insecurity and will exploit it. Tell them you need a break at a specific time and then when it's that time, tell them you're taking a break. There's a difference between being confrontational and for sticking up for yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect in your job and if you can't get that where you are, then you should be ready to move on to where you can get it. You've worked hard for your education and your career, no one else should be able to derail it. Good luck!

guest1163268

2,215 Posts

I think you should move immediately. Based on what you described as your personality and temperament, you shouldn't try to stand up. Just don't say anything and move on since you obviously have enough experience and since you are still employed after so many years, must be quite capable. 

How is it that new RNs are in charge and you're not? I think you have to accept the fact that you are meek and use those assets where it will be best appreciated. You like your patients meaning empathy. Try the psych nursing route. It's less stressful. 

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 39 years experience. 1,224 Posts

On 4/19/2021 at 7:31 AM, Wandering-night said:

The hospital I work at hires a lot of new nurses straight out of nursing school primarily from this one school. More than half the hospital graduated from this one university for nursing. I w

I once worked for such a place and if you were not from that school you were an outcast,mistreated,bullied management knew there was a clique but ignored it.The last straw was when I saw them yell and threaten a pregnant nurse and continue it out in the street. Turns out one of the ring leaders was an alcoholic and mgmt was well aware she was trouble. I put my time in and left as soon as I could give proper notice.

cgw5364, ADN

Specializes in Maternal Newborn and Denials Management. Has 38 years experience. 24 Posts

Like others have said, you need to be more assertive. I worked night shift and one of the day nurses was know for bullying the night shift nurses during report especially about tasks that we had to pass on. One morning during report after a horrible night-I was the only RN with 2 LPN's with 12 brand new mother baby couplets and 6 of these were fresh C/S. Not only was I in charge I was also the PCA/IV nurse for all 6 of these patients. The day nurse started her thing-asking question after question before I had a chance to answer one question. I finally looked her in the eye and calmly said "stop it". Not loudly but the entire nursing station got dead silent. I then proceeded to tell this nurse that I would answer all of her questions one at a time. I explained the night we had had and that we could not complete all of our tasks but that is what the next shift was for. Well, after that I never had a problem from that person again. 

kc87t, BSN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER / ICU. Has 12 years experience. 52 Posts

You can either gtfo - because no job is worth your happiness. Or, get a voice and learn to use it. You shouldn't ever allow anyone to talk to you like that or treat you like that. Nursing is a team effort and if you have *** teammates then you need to straight up tell them to their face...tell them that they are creating a dangerous work environment for the patients.