Toxic Nursing: the stories, the solutions


Celine Loup for Scrubs

From the Spring 2014 issue of Scrubs

As in other professions, in nursing a happy employee is a good employee. So, when bullying and bad attitudes, lack of respect and courtesy take over a hospital, a unit or an office, incivility reigns and nothing good happens—for the nurses or the patients. Don’t wait for total turmoil to hit your workplace. Check out the experts’ advice on how to handle various real-life scenarios so you can survive and, yes, thrive in your job.

Gossip and Trash Talk

One busy evening, Liandra—who has worked in the ED for many years—makes a medication error, which is quickly caught and corrected by one of her coworkers. Despite the self-limiting nature of the medication mistake, Liandra is consumed with guilt. She can’t stop retracing her steps and trying to figure out what led her to give the wrong dose of medication.

Carrie, Liandra’s coworker, works a double on the night after the mistake is made. She tells the entire night shift about it. By morning, the night-shift workers are convinced Liandra nearly killed a patient and will suffer serious repercussions.

One of them calls Liandra to console her and discovers the incident has been blown out of proportion. This is not the first time Carrie has been caught exaggerating at the expense of a coworker.

The Expert Weighs In:

It’s important to have established a culture in which an error is reported rapidly and the focus is not on laying blame, but on exploring why it occurred and preventing future errors.

The manager needs to talk to Carrie and help her understand how her actions have created a toxic environment: Not only has she created problems for her colleagues, but she has also shifted the focus from prevention of these errors to seeking blame for an error that anyone could make.

The manager should work with the staff to create a culture of trust so errors can be reported quickly and accurately without fear of repercussions.

–Melissa Snyder, DEd, CRNP, Campus Coordinator of Nursing Programs, Penn State Harrisburg


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