WORST NURSE #1: THE BULLY
As children, we all had to deal with bullies. And now that we’re all grown up, we still have to deal with bullies. Yes, life can be cyclical, and in this instance it can certainly be unfair. Bullying can be physical or verbal. Either way, you don’t have to stand for it.
WORST NURSE #2: THE KNOW-IT-ALL
Know-it-alls are the worst because they can’t possibly know it all, unless they’ve made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil. And we can safely guess they haven’t. Just avoid arguing back, and instead say something along the lines of “That’s a good point. I’ll take that into consideration.” No need to be emotional or combative. Just move on with your day (unless they are putting a patient in danger).
WORST NURSE #3: THE INCOMPETENT BOSS
If you’ve watched The Office, then you’ve seen incompetence in action on a weekly basis. The Office is hilarious escapism, but dealing with an incompetent superior is nothing short of an inescapable nightmare. Just be the strong, silent type. If your boss is bad at his or her career, then it will be apparent to all. If you need to, document every boneheaded decision your manager makes, and if your boss does something that threatens your job, you’ll have documentation and proof that will validate your performance.
WORST NURSE #4: THE SLACKER
The best thing to do is ignore it. Sounds rough, but that’s how it has to be. Concentrate on your own work. Eventually, the slacker’s poor work ethic will be noticed and he or she will be fired. There are two exceptions to the Ignore It rule:
1. If a slacker’s laziness affects your work, it’s okay to tell a supervisor. You shouldn’t have to do extra work on the slacker’s behalf.
2. Report the slacker if his or her poor work habits endanger the life of a patient. Negligent behavior won’t be tolerated for long in a health care setting.
WORST NURSE #5: THE FOULMOUTH
People who swear often in their everyday language are sometimes referred to as sailors, those people who usually work on boats, sail things and bear the stigma of swearing a lot. That doesn’t stop some nurses from swearing like sailors. If you’re experiencing one of these sailor-wannabes in your workplace and it’s offensive to you and your patients, take direct action.
Try having an honest discussion with the cussing coworker. Explain that you don’t like the words he or she says. Make sure to be positive in your message:
“I like you, but I cringe when I hear you swear. Not only do I dislike the words you use, but I worry that you may get in trouble or fired because of it.”
BEST NURSE #1: THE INSPIRATIONAL NURSE
Mary Anderson, a nurse from Richmond, Maine earned a master’s degree in nursing leadership by taking classes online. But what makes her story absolutely exceptional is that while she was earning her new degree, she also was holding down a hospital job as assistant chief nurse and battling — and beating — breast cancer.
“It certainly made me more driven to reach my goals in life,” Anderson said of her bout with breast cancer. “I love my job; I love where I work. I was very fortunate that the VA offers this program.” (Morning Sentinel)
Anderson had a double mastectomy and has had no recurrence of cancer. Though her professors gave her extensions on assignments, Anderson said she only missed six to eight weeks of classes.
Anderson’s strength and courage is undeniably inspiring.
BEST NURSE #2: THE CARING NURSE
At first sound you might think the graceful notes floating through the air in the Memphis VA Medical Center’s ICU are coming from a patient’s television set. But on closer listen it’s clear: The music is live, courtesy of nurse Lori Sykes, who comes to work every day toting her violin.
Sykes, 35, has been using her musical skills to soothe and heal since she was nine. “My mom worked for a local mental health institute and she would bring us in to play for the patients,” says Sykes, whose siblings are also musicians. “It seemed to lift their spirits.”
Although her musical prowess won her a scholarship to the University of Memphis, Sykes chose to pursue a career in nursing. As an ICU nurse she is frequently called to soothe patients with her music. “I’ll play two or three songs on my violin or I’ll sing, usually hymns or spiritual music or whatever patients or their families request,” says Sykes.
BEST NURSE #3: THE BRAVE NURSE
Nurses Anne Mitchell and Vikilyn Galle were both working at a hospital in a small Texas town when they became increasingly concerned about the quality of care provided by one of the physicians. He was a family physician who started performing surgeries (and failed ones at that) on unwitting patients.
The nurses brought these issues up to hospital administration, but were ignored. When they sent an anonymous letter to the Texas Medical Board, they were fired. Then they were arrested.
Last year, that doctor, Rolando Arafiles Jr, MD, pleaded guilty to criminal charges for his retaliation against the two nurses for sending the complaint. Mitchell and Galle had all charges dropped just before the case went to trial last year, and were eventually awarded $375,000 each in a civil suit against Winkler County. Arafiles was sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
BEST NURSE #4: THE BOAT-ROCKING NURSE
Born to an aristocratic family, Florence Nightingale could have lived a life of leisure. To the dismay of her parents, she rejected many wealthy suitors as a young woman and decided to follow what she considered her divine calling: nursing. For the British Army, this was a good thing because when Nightingale went to Turkey in the mid-1850s to nurse British soldiers in an army hospital there, she was appalled by the sanitation conditions and rallied for change.
The military wasn’t pleased with her “criticism” of their procedures and basically ignored her at first. Using a contact at the The Times in London, Nightingale got an editor on board her cause, and when her concerns were publicized and subsequently received some attention from the government, she was permitted to make changes to improve sanitation in the army hospital.
This reduced the death rate of soldiers. For her entire nursing career, Nightingale continued to focus on hospital reform that improved conditions for patients. Rocking the boat when it’s in the best interest of your patients is a good thing.
BEST NURSE #5: THE OUTREACH NURSE
Both of Mary Breckinridge’s children died when they were very young, and Breckinridge decided to make it her life’s work to improve the health of women and children in rural regions of the United States—regions in which families had limited or no access to healthcare. So, at the age of 29, shortly after her husband and children had all passed away, she essentially started her life over and became a nurse.
In 1925, she founded the Frontier Nursing Service to provide care to the isolated mountainous region of eastern Kentucky. Over the next several decades, this outreach model of nursing was adopted by the rest of the country and the rest of world, leading to the development of in-home nursing services, district nursing service centers and district hospitals, all geared to providing nursing services to people residing far from major cities and towns. Breckinridge was also a leader in bringing midwifery services to women who couldn’t feasibly travel to major centers for maternity care and delivery care.
A major influence behind bringing the concept of “public health nursing” into the limelight, Breckinridge changed the lives of many and opened up whole new nursing career avenues for nurses everywhere. If you’re looking for a career shift, explore the world beyond the facility or institution you’re currently working in.