Traveler Tips: Types of Bullying Travelers Encounter
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
I’m not sure exactly when I first heard the phrase “nurses eat their young” but I know it was very early on in my nursing career. In fact, I am almost positive I heard it from a nursing professor before I had even set foot on a hospital floor.
This unfortunate culture is one that has been brought to the forefront of healthcare related news more and more lately, and I do believe there is a strong wave of nurses working to put an end to this stereotype. However, each unit and hospital across the country has different people and practices that may contribute to this outdated culture and it is something we have to be prepared to deal with as travelers.
The term “bullying” is broad. This can refer to many different negative behaviors and ultimately it boils down to how the person being treated feels about their treatment. What one individual can overlook may totally ruin an assignment for someone else, so it is important to be aware of the different forms bullying can take so we can better intervene or support other nurses when we see it happening. Here are a few types of bullying I have witnessed as staff and as a traveler.
Overanalyzing how someone performs a task.
In the medical field, there are about 100 ways to do the same tasks. For example, in some places, it is unheard of to prime blood tubing without first priming with saline, and in other places, it is standard practice to hang the blood first. Regardless of your personal opinions, different hospitals have research committees that sit down and write policies that may be at odds with each other but at the end of the day are meant to have the patients’ best interests in mind.
A quick way to make a nurse feel unwelcome is to comment directly on how he or she performs a specific task without asking why they did it that way. The more frequently this happens, the more self-conscious or frustrated that nurse may become. I have had nurses look at me like I have three heads when I do something a certain way when it was common practice at my previous three assignments. Approach these instances from a place of wanting to learn rather than criticizing and you may find a better way to perform your job in the long run.
As the newbie on a unit, I by no means expect to be included in every conversation or event, but I do think it is hurtful when everyone except the traveler(s) are invited. There is a very awkward moment when you realize the conversation shuts down when you come around, and it makes adjusting to a new unit that much more uncomfortable.
While it can be hard to get to know someone during a shift, it is even harder if you are unwilling to try to know them outside of work. If there is a group of people going to drinks after work or to a festival on the weekend, keep in mind that purposely excluding the new kid can be more harmful than you realize, especially if you haven’t been that newbie in a long time.
Micromanaging tasks and charting.
Each assignment comes with a 2-3 week adjustment period where I welcome [helpful] feedback or tips on how certain situations are handled at each particular job. Some facilities are very task-oriented, others have policies outlined for every scenario, and some are more go with the flow. As I get a handle on these things it can be helpful to have a few tips or tricks given to me by full-time staff members of how to best manage my day or keep on top of what is most important on that particular unit.
What is not helpful is coming on to a shift to find an email or laundry list of things I did “wrong”. The majority of travelers know the basics of being a nurse very well, they just need a little guidance in unit specifics. A small hiccup or forgotten piece of charting doesn’t mean the nurse is incompetent, it may just mean that is not something they have had to chart or focus on previously. However, being the victim of constant nitpicking or feeling like your charting is being double-checked constantly can be very mentally draining on a traveler.
Most travelers go in with one of two mindsets. Either they assume the staff at their new job will be so overjoyed to have the help that they will be over the top nice, or they hear horror stories about nurse bullying and go in with their guard up from the beginning. Personally, I have found that approaching each assignment with an open mind has led to a better overall experience, but after seeing how some staff behave toward travelers I can see how some nurses can come in with the latter attitude.
Next week I will cover exactly how to handle negative behavior while on assignment, including some advantages that we as travelers have that full-time staff do not. While this should not be a part of nursing (or any job) it is an unfortunate truth we have to be ready to handle with grace in order to keep our own morale up in order to keep enjoying all the perks that travel nursing has to offer.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
<< Part Two: How to Handle Bullying as a Travel Nurse
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