unhealthy work environment, negativity, nurse culture, incivility

The public thinks nurses are so caring and compassionate – always smiling and positive about life. After all, we have the unique ability to put our own lives into perspective. Traffic jams don’t seem so bad after you’ve cared for an 18 year old who was just diagnosed with a glioblastoma or 45 year old with a massive stroke.
However, if you’re a nurse, you know the truth. Nurses can be very negative and at times, down right miserable!
I spend the majority of my time helping individuals and organizations address and eliminate disruptive behaviors in healthcare. There is badness out there among caring and compassionate healthcare providers (not just nurses) and for a long time, I was stumped at the reason. Why is bad behavior and negativity so prevalent in nursing?
And then I figured it out!

It’s because we are taught to be negative.
Think about it. From the very first day in nursing school, nurses are taught to find the abnormal, to identify what’s wrong, to look for clues that there’s something bad going on. The reality is that we’ve been training our brains to look for bad things. In turn, we start to look for badness in each other too! And it’s not just physical ailments – it’s personalities, motives, and behaviors too.
Simple dizziness becomes an acoustic neuroma. Diarrhea from a GI flu becomes CDiff.  Someone gives us a rough assignment and it becomes a personal attack. A co-worker gets testy and she’s out to get us.
When nurses spend the majority of their time looking for the negative, it’s very easy to get sucked into the vortex of negativity about everything!
How to avoid the negativity trap:
FIRST – recognize that although we are taught to find badness, there is goodness too.  Commit to identifying at least 1 thing that is positive in your workplace. Do this every day!
SECOND – recognize that your co-workers are also taught to see the negative. So, don’t take their behaviors so personally. Instead, help THEM to see the positive too.
THIRD – recognize that patients are focused on the negative too. They are afraid and are waiting for the other shoe to drop – waiting for bad news. Help them by find the positive too.
If you’ve been negative before, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it.  Just recognize that while you’ve been trained to see the negative, you are equally capable of finding the positive!
Remember, behavior and attitude are choices!
Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read your comments about this topic.


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