There are things that irritate the heck out of me. Stubbing my toe in the middle of the night. Finding a box of snacks and realizing someone has finished the last one. Sneezing in the middle of putting my mascara on and then looking like a skunk. How much time to you have because I have like a million more. But, there is one…. one that really scalds
The sweet young nurse, with scrubs too tight and make up perfect, just waiting for a doctor’s attention. The crabby older nurse that has worked way too many night shifts. Catty, loud and mean cliques of nurses that act like immature high schoolers. There is something that really bothers me about them all… that, sadly, there is an underlying foundation of truth to them all. Sure, they get exacerbated by stage and screen, but that kernel of truth still exists? How do I know? Well, other than actually being a nurse, I know because I was a mean girl.
It’s not something I am proud of. It won’t find its way to my resume under accomplishments. Certainly won’t win me nurse if the year, but, if I am going to be brutally honest, it is true.
Sure, I could try to make excuses for it by saying I was having difficult life circumstances, but, that does not excuse poor behavior. It was a group of us. I cannot say that we did it intentionally, but, looking back, it’s as clear as day… We gossiped. We talked about people behind their backs. We were not always welcoming to new people. Saying all of those things almost makes me sick to my stomach. I am not that girl. But, it’s easy to get caught up in something like this.
You see your coworkers more than you see your own family. You are in the middle of critically important situations where life hangs in the balance. You bond. Sadly, sometimes, that happens at the exclusion of others. “What? Did you see what she did? Oh my God! I would never do that”. That, right there is silent nurse bullying. That undercurrent of judgement then leaks out into other situations. Pretty soon, the cracks in terra firma appear and divisions become evident.
It sucks being the new person on a unit. You have to learn the style of nursing. You need to remember codes and passwords. You are worried about making a good impression. Not to mention, you have to find out where the safe bathrooms are and if you will get your head ripped off for having a drink on the desk. The last thing that is needed in that situation is an icy response from your new coworkers. The snotty and gossipy atmosphere just perpetuates loneliness and feelings of inferiority.
Karma always pays back, however. I left that hospital and began a whole different type of nursing in a new unit. Not knowing anyone, I was scared and lonely. The mean girls in this place were legit. I mean, I never stood a chance. Many evenings, I found myself driving home in tears not only because of how work made me feel, but, at the sad realization that life was reflecting how I was back to me. This job didn’t last long because I was totally miserable. The unit lost a nurse and a nurse lost her confidence. There are no winners.
Do I still love gossip? Yes. Sometimes, I find myself talking behind someone’s back and I later feel like I have betrayed them and myself. We cannot stop this cycle of nurse on nurse malice unless it is all exposed and taken out of the shadows. It happens. It is wrong. Let’s fix it. It costs life saving nurses and that’s a price too high to pay.
Be open and kind to new employees.
Try not to get caught up in a rumor mill.
Think about your actions- if others find out would you be embarrassed and would they be hurt?
No one has to “earn their keep” or prove themselves.
Be inclusive and not exclusive. Both take the same amount of energy.
It took a role reversal to realize my own actions. If anyone had been effected by my mean girl ways, I am sorry. This is my mea culpa. Truly, I wish I could take it all back. Unable to do so, I can only try to be better. I know better, so I am working on being better.
Nursing is such an emotionally exhausting profession. We put our hearts and souls on the line every shift. Our patients take precedent above our own selves. If our patients are really our priority, catty mean and unkind behaviors hurt them the most. It costs nurses. It steals self confidence. It renders a strong unit incapable.
Be kind. Celebrate our differences because our strength lies in those. In this crazy world, having each other’s backs isn’t just at a negotiating table. It’s every day, every interaction, both visible and invisible.
We are kind, empathetic and forgiving to our patients.
Let’s be that way with each other.