Why Can’t We All Get Along?

Advice for travelers faced with bullying and difficult co-workers

Everyone understands it can be challenging to join a new team. Travel nurses are especially familiar since they are changing jobs-and teams-every 13 weeks or so. Meeting staff nurses, supervisors, and learning the processes at each hospital can take its toll. Sadly, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA) 18-31% of nurses have experienced bullying at work, which can include physical, verbal, and even non-verbal hostility.

Disrespectful treatment in any form causes stress, anxiety, depression and can lead to physical health issues such as hypertension. Dealing with difficult co-workers makes it hard to do your job because distractions lead to poor efficiency and mistakes. Nurses need to be at their best at all times to ensure top-notch patient care and adherence to standards. Read on for a helpful guide in navigating complicated co-workers.

Step 1 – Understand the Cause

Due to circumstances beyond your control, you may be entering an already volatile environment. Often times travel nurses are contracted to fill a shortage in permanent staff. And unfortunately, facilities sometimes act far too late on this need. This creates a team that is already stressed, overworked, tired, and irritable.

Step 2 – Acknowledge the Perception

Understand that even though you are brought in to help and have genuine intentions, some may perceive you as a threat. Nurses often feel protective over their patients, territorial over the way things are done, and even jealousy that travelers are paid well with the freedom to explore.

Step 3 – Deescalate

Anytime you are faced with confrontation or an uncomfortable situation take the high road. Avoid engaging in unwinnable arguments, personal bantering, or debates over things that are subjective. Try to diffuse tense situations with something undeniably positive, a compliment, patient improvements, or just politely walk away.

Step 4 – Avoid Triggers

A key part of a successful strategy is to stay away from anything that can trigger unwanted behavior. Don’t get sucked into “gotcha” mentality. Do not engage in gossip, question rumors, invade personal matters, or spark conversations over topics that you know are controversial. Spend the least amount of time possible with those you find challenging and keep all interactions very professional.

Step 5 – Practice what You Preach

As you try to navigate difficult co-workers, take time to appreciate why those people are “less desirable”. Use this to reflect on your own personal brand and how to protect how others see you. It’s really quite simple, to be your best self, don’t do all the things that are bugging you about others. Treat others as you want to be treated, with respect and appreciation.

Step 6 – Self Care

We’ll say it even louder for those in the back “TAKE CARE OF YOU.” Nurses have one of the most demanding jobs on the planet. Sleep, nutrition, spiritual guidance, and physical health are all mandatory for your well-being. If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Patient care requires enormous emotional and physical energy, be sure to relax and recharge regularly.

Step 7 – Record and Report

Just because other nurses are stressed, tired, “only human”, doesn’t make it okay for them to treat you unfairly or bully you. Several behaviors may warrant disciplinary action or at least supervisory intervention. These include: unfair patient load, additional task requirements above and beyond the norm, intentionally withholding information, lack of recognition, exaggerating minor mistakes, encouraging gossip and cliques, non-verbal harassment, as well as physical intimidation. And, of course, any behavior that jeopardizes patient care must be reported.

Step 8 – Look Forward

Try to always see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially if you are experiencing minor relationship challenges and harmless cattiness from others, remember your stay is temporary. Stay true to who you are, kill them with kindness and start arrangements for your next assignment.

We hope these steps are helpful if you ever find yourself struggling in a difficult environment. Try to surround yourself with a supportive network of fellow travelers who will easily empathize with you. Your network can be local or even a group that connects via social media and zoom calls. Reach out to family as well, there is nothing like the unconditional encouragement from your loved ones.

Stay Safe

If you are struggling with depression, fear, or any feelings where you find it difficult to cope, seek professional assistance. If your situation is dangerous and you feel threatened for your safety, seek immediate help at 911 or from your hospital’s administrative team.

Unhappy with your current travel assignment and ready for a change? Speak with a recruiter today. We will happily find you a new assignment.