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‘Toxic Nursing’: Getting rid of the green-eyed monster on the job

Jealous nurses

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In the Spring 2014 issue of Scrubs (get your copy here!), we gave you an in-depth look at incivility in the hospital with “Toxic Nursing.”

Now we’re sharing more on this subject with in-depth look at jealousy on the job.

Kirstin has moved to the city and started a job in the NICU, where nurses and physicians are on a first-name basis and relationships are more relaxed. As a younger, attractive nurse, Kirstin garners attention from the male physicians. She enjoys this attention and even begins to socialize with some of the residents after work hours.

Kirstin is competent and professional in her patient care, and the previous work she did in a neuro unit gives her a strong background for work in the NICU. The other nurses, however, resent the excitement Kirstin’s arrival has caused and the attention she receives from their medical colleagues.

“You wouldn’t find me going out for drinks with them after work,” comments Fran, an older nurse. Soon, Fran and the other nurses ostracize Kirstin and refuse to help her because her first loyalty seems to be toward the physicians.

Expert Commentary

This is another scenario where a unit-wide intervention in the form of education and a code of conduct would be appropriate. It is not acceptable for the nurses to gossip about conduct that occurs outside of the work environment. As long as the relationships between Kirstin and the physicians are kept on a professional basis during work hours, they are not the concern of anyone at work. Also, it is never appropriate for a nurse to refuse to help another because he or she holds a grudge against that nurse. The code of conduct could also address flirting and other inappropriate action within the workplace to make sure that Kirstin’s behavior at work does not become unprofessional. Again, the managers should check back frequently with all parties to make sure these interventions address the issues.
–Susan Johnson

This scenario is happening outside the workplace. It’s important to realize that if Kirstin is a good nurse, there’s nothing the nurse manager can do. If there’s jealousy, she can’t get involved or let what’s happening outside the hospital affect the work arena. The nurse manager could, however, continue to treat everyone professionally and to stress that what Kirstin does outside of work is her own business—as long as it doesn’t affect patients.

If the other nurses refuse to help Kirstin and mistreat her, then the nurse manager can step in and stress the importance of teamwork. What any nurse does outside the unit shouldn’t affect his or her work.

No one is asking a nurse to approve of what goes on in a coworker’s life after hours. His or her job is to be a good colleague and team member. Nurses need to treat each other with respect and have the attitude that everyone works together. You don’t have to agree about their politics or their behavior outside of work, but you do have to work with them to take care of patients.
–Kathy Curci

Is Kirstin’s behavior unprofessional? Do any of the nurses on your unit see colleagues of the opposite gender outside of work hours? Do you disapprove? If so, why?

If some of the nurses on your unit garner the interest of male colleagues, does it upset the balance of the unit? As the nurse manager, how might you handle this situation?

Adapted with permission from Toxic Nursing by Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, RN, CRNP, and Rebecca L. Volpe, PhD. Published 2013 by The Honor Society of Nursing: Sigma Theta Tau International.

This is part six of nine; don’t miss parts one, two, three, four, fiveseveneight and nine!

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