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Is Nursing More Toxic Than Ever? Nurses Think So.

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We’ve heard the expression “nurses eat their young,” but things have arguably gotten even worse over the last couple years. Nurses are being asked to do more with fewer resources and less time than they were previously, which has led to unprecedented rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout. A recent study shows more nurses are thinking about leaving the profession than ever before with the U.S. headed for a shortfall of half a million providers in just three years.

All of this is putting added pressure on nurses, which can lead to a toxic working environment. So, has nursing permanently changed for the worse? Here’s what providers are saying:

Yes, nursing eats the young and discards the old. You have to be on your toes and on guard all the time. The least minor mistake can turn into a big deal quickly. I became a nurse back in the 80’s, there was a shortage of nurses then and nothing has changed 30 plus years later. Now I see why. If I had known them what I know now I would have chosen anything but nursing.

Linda

I truly think most of healthcare has failed so many of us. The toxicity is everywhere and is allowed by the culture of the institution. Yes, The Culture of the Institution!!!!

Denise

I work 2 nursing jobs, long-term care and in a medical clinic… I do not feel that the nursing industry is toxic… if a nurse is only in it for the money and benefits, then that individual is toxic. I do my job for two reasons: I care about helping people and the wage. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t doing it for the money. But you need to care and show compassion for people… if you want to be a good nurse.

Deb

I’ve been a behavioral health nurse for 30 years and the most toxic part of my job was never patients. It was management.

Lori

It’s very stressful and we often feel unappreciated, but I wouldn’t call it toxic. I’m fortunate to work with a great group of nurses, docs, and CNAs in an outpatient surgery center.

Kate

Lazy CNAs.

Disrespectful coworkers.

Not being a team player.

Management might suck.

Man!! So many reasons nursing can be and is a toxic environment.

Terrica

Is there any other industry where “find your own replacement if you’re sick & can’t come in” is the norm?!?!

Shelley

Forty years ago, we coined the term, “Nurses eat their young,” meaning established nurses disrespected new grads, often belittling them instead of nurturing and training etc.?

Today I find it very alarming that nurses, of all people, dispute Covid, refuse the vaccine etc.?

What on earth has happened to basic education? Microbiology, DNA sequencing, super computers. Nursing above any other profession should be unbiased cognitive scientific thought process…. 😳

Deb

Management fake respects you. Families and patients view us as abuse targets with zero repercussions and no matter what you do or how hard you work it’s never quite enough.

Bradley

I love being a nurse, but I have been bullied at most of my jobs, now I’m in a position to have and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Trying to do my part to help make other nurses experiences a more positive one than mine was.

Patty

Yes. Nurses are expected to be robots and never get sick or have emotions or have emergencies (which is absolutely absurd considering that we are a population most exposed to contagious illnesses).

Short-staffed 24/7 with most supervisors unwilling to help at the bedside when staffing ratios become unsafe. It’s treated like a customer service industry since reimbursement became based on satisfaction scores, so there is pressure from both ends (patients and management) with nobody to back you up when you set boundaries, which are absolutely necessary in the profession.

And nurses aren’t encouraged to report physical abuse from lucid patients/family even though it’s happening more often than ever.

Brittanie

We’re not treated with the respect we deserve… If we were, we’d have safe staffing ratios, fair pay, breaks every shift, and administration would actually listen to what we say and implement.

Mark

Well, it depends on who is running the show. Basically, if you have poor management then yeah, it’s toxic.

Kristen

Fortunately, not the one I work at now. But my previous jobs, hell yes. You’re overworked, expected to take care of way too many patients who really need your full attention to observe changes in their status and need treatment, pulled in way too many directions from too many people and don’t have the time or help to do it all. It makes you feel like a terrible nurse.

Tara

Yes. Sometimes it could be just one single person to ruin the entire morale on the unit. Especially if that person is management.

Leah

Nurses are given tremendous responsibility and then a huge workload and judged harshly for doing the best they can to please some very unhappy sick people.

Maria

Absolutely! Management’s unrealistic expectations, management that is disconnected from bedside nursing, entitled and demanding patients, physical demands of the job. Nursing has become a “show up and shut up” environment.

Julie

Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions online.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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