Don’t burn your bridges


Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

For anybody that has been a nurse for a few years you have already learned this, especially if you have worked at more than one hospital.

Nurses, or even healthcare is general, is a pretty small and close knit group. If you are working in the same town you went to school in, then you probably know at least one nurse at every hospital in your town. If you have worked at other hospitals, then you probably know somebody at every hospital in your town. But it is definite that somebody you work with now knows at least one other nurse at every hospital in your town.

For this reason, I tell my nurses, don’t burn your bridges. What you say or do here will eventually make it to the hospital on the other side of town.  Here’s an example…with some details changed to protect the parties involved:

When I was staffing in the ED, the manager was interviewing a nurse. This nurse was somebody I went to school with.  She was an average student, but the know-it-all in the class (we all had one of those, the phlebotomist or EKG tech who think they know everything). She was a complete pain in school.

When he was giving her a tour of the unit, we ran into each other. She came over gave me a hug and was sweet as pie, although we never got along in school. After her interview, the manager came and asked me about her.  I told him the truth, I don’t know about her nursing skills, but she was a difficult person to deal with in school and I don’t think she would be a good fit for the team.

She didn’t get the job. This happened with two other people that I was asked about that I worked with in other EDs.

I don’t feel bad about it, because I don’t think they would have been successful here, and I don’t think they would have been a good fit for the team. It was their behavior that caused me to give a bad reference.

What I am saying is….we have hard jobs already. When you are feeling stressed and having a bad day, learn how to keep it in check. Because one day, you may not get a job in another department or hospital because of how you acted on your unit today.

, , , , ,

Rob Cameron

Rob Cameron is currently a staff nurse in a level II trauma center. He has primarily been an ED nurse for most of his career, but he has also been a nurse manager for Surgical Trauma and Telemetry unit. He has worked in Med/Surg, Critical Care, Hospice, Rehab, an extremely busy cardiology clinic and pretty much anywhere he's been needed.Prior to his career in nursing, Rob worked in healthcare finance and management. Rob feels this experience has given him a perspective on nursing that many never see. He loves nursing because of all the options he has within the field. He is currently a grad student working on an MSN in nursing leadership, and teaches clinicals at a local university.Away from work, Rob spends all of his time with his wife and daughter. He enjoys cycling and Crossfit. He is a die hard NASCAR fan. Sundays you can find Rob watching the race with his daughter.

Post a Comment

You must or register to post a comment.

17 Responses to Don’t burn your bridges

  1. Rebekah Child

    Oh this is SOOO true! I always tell my nursing students that! Be careful what you say, do and how you leave places because you never know, you may show up for a job interview one day and the person interviewing you is that person whose bridge you burned!

  2. Sean Dent

    You are so right Rob. I think this small nugget of information should be ‘taught’ to the nursing students during basic nursing skills – this is Nursing 101. Heck this is proper professional conduct across the board.
    Life is a circle and what goes around comes around. Be sure to keep all your bridges open for traffic – coming and going.
    Great advice.

  3. Rob, I could not agree with you more. I think in life, in general, it does not pay to make enemies or burn bridges. Being involved in pediatrics, homecare and phone triage, it is amazing how many former co-workers I have run into on the job, or worked with people who know former work mates. Nursing may be a universal profession, but that said, we live in a small universe.

  4. Ericka Garcia

    Oh man so there is one of those in every nursing class I thought it was just ours, but heres the thing she is not only a cna but an flunky from 2 other nursing programs, but she knows it all or think she does…..LOL man I would hate to see how she will interact with the physicans when we start our clinicals if she is always trying to correct our teachers I can only imagine what she will do.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. as a nursing instructor I would tell students that their behvior in the classroom was so important and that we were working as a team. Those students who ignored the message did so at their peril. When job/ school recommendation time came along (as it always does) I was brutally honest about their abilities and interpersonal skills.

  6. Shannon Weaver

    This is so true and I wish more of our new grad nurses realized this. Recently one of the new grad nurses I worked with on oure Telemetry unit burned a major bridge at her first ever nursing job. We all tried to help and warn her but she had to make her own mistakes. I wish her well at her new job but don’t really think the grass is really greener there.

  7. Mary

    On the same token, I have seen that when I have left a position and people have been jerks and non-supportive, I remember the behavior and poor nursing skills. Nurse managers will come up to me to ask me about a person when they know that I worked with them at a facility and got my opinion-Needless to say, they were not hired.

  8. Dawn

    I have always been of the opinion that when I leave a job, I should be able to turn right around and apply there again …. You just don’t know who will be your next co-worker/boss/etc . . . and unless you want to totally relocate, you will probably see them again!

  9. Kathy

    I could not agree more with the exception of the “clicks” that are still in fashion, mostly when all the hospitals are under one system. Clicks have a habit of sizing people up, and no matter what one can not shake it, even if it’s the biggest lie ever told. There are several healthcare systems here that have clicks that make a round table dicussion look like kindergarden. This state also puts out a high volume of nurses, yet everyone wonders why there is a very high number of out of state nurses that have to come in to work. Just be careful.

  10. j5150


    Personality conflicts can’t be avoided but they can sure be tempered and managed professionally. A seed was planted in your post and the thread turned into a bully session against Jane Doe, RN. Everyone, including a nursing instructor, joined in on the whipping.

    Lateral Violence (LV) impacts healthcare and the nursing profession in many ways, financially, physically and emotionally. Here are a few quick stats off a study (2007) conducted by a university LV think tank in SC:

    –60%: amount of new RN grads that leave their first jobs because of LV.
    –$92,000.00: estimated cost to recruit, hire, and orient a med/surg nurse.
    –$145,000.00: estimated cost to do the same for a specialty nurse.
    –8.4%: average voluntary turnover in a peaceful healthcare setting.
    –27.1%: average turnover for first year nurses.

    Budgets can’t sustain this. Recruiter’s can’t keep pace b/c no one wants to work in a system where LV is tolerated. RN health falters in terms of mental and physical illness so call-outs increase. When nurses are sick on the job, patients are at higher risk from errors. It’s a no- win situation.

    I had to respond to this post in this way as it was screaming for this connection and attention and I hope everyone will stop and think about what they read and wrote. Our problems in healthcare are too big to pit us against each other. Only on common ground and with a collective voice can we make strides forward.


    • I agree with you here.
      It sounds more like someone you had a personality conflict in school and you nailed him/her when you had the chance.
      It doesn’t sound like the know-it-all in class burned any bridges, but that you didn’t like her personality and stuck it to her when you got a chance.
      It’s really unfortunate that you cost someone a job because you didn’t like her.

  11. JerZFox

    Nursing completely overlooks the donut and focuses solely on the hole. Save a patient’s life and all you get is a “Yeah, so what?” Forget to give a patient their vitamin, and they kick your ass to the curb and report you to the board. As Shakespeare said in “Julius Caesar,” “The evil men do lives on after them. The good is oft interr’d with their bones.”

  12. Nurse Rene

    j5150 makes an excellent point about lateral violence. I have been on the receiving end of this kind of ‘under the table’, passive/aggressive sabotage to a nurses’ reputation, credentials and experience. It is true that even the biggest of Lies, when repeated often enough, become Truth to those who listen to such nonsense.
    It is HARD to stand up for someone who is being ‘blackballed’ in the eyes of their peers, doctors, management and anyone else. However, all that is necessary for Evil to succeed is that good people do nothing…

  13. YRJ

    All of these responses were interesting, however I think that points raised about lateral violence in action, gave me a moment to reflect. What if your perception of someone is wrong? You have labeled them stereotyped by what you think and not by what it truly is. I have experienced the bully behavior of other nurses. Never sure why, but it is a terrible feeling, when you go to work to take care of sick people, and your peers are busy with immature behaviors that impact other individuals lives. So if you agree with gossiping, deceiving and just being mean spirited, I wonder how you became a nurse. What happen to the Respect, Honesty, Patience and Understanding? Something to think about.

    • I completely agree with you.

    • sunjurn

      Cudos to J5150, Jrz, Rene et al for commenting on this very REAL phenomenon in nursing! YRJ, I too am a victim of LV and I’m pretty sure why. Victims typically fit a certain profile. We tend to do things in a way that is best for the patient instead of doing things “the way its always been done”. Well this goes against the team mentality; and I use the term TEAM loosely in this case because the only time these perpetrators actually work as a team is when they are trying to manipulate or gang up on someone. Any other time you’ll find them displaying their true team spirit which includes sitting on their backsides while you struggle with a patient. Or holding on to one patient while you take admit after admit and then refusing to take report in a timely manner when its time for you to go home. But no worries. We have to keep working to change this type of environment. It starts with challenging the mentality of leadership that allows these practices to continue.

  14. sunjurn

    ….and speaking of challenging leadership mentality. It is a sad thing to see that some nurses have set themselves up as jury, judge and executioner over who is fit to practice. Granted, as stewards of our profession we are responsible for the way we practice and for who we allow into our practice. But we must be fair and ethical in our decision making. No RN in a leadership position should deny a person employment because someone didn’t like him in high school (pun intended). To Rob C. I can’t blame you forgiving your honest opinion of the prospective employee, obviously your opinion is valued in that respect. But I hope that when YOU matriculate into a leadership position you vet the information that you receive more responsibly than your manager did. To the nurses that were not hired due to frivolous decision making practices, I echo Rob C’s comment: I don’t think you would have been successful there….and that’s a GOOD thing!