By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Last week I discussed how travel nurses may encounter bullying on the job. This type of lateral violence may present differently when you work as a traveler than when you are permanent staff.
Ready for the good news?
This also means as a traveler you have other ways to handle nurse bullying to keep yourself safe and happy.
While working as a temporary staff member may open us up to more scrutinization than other scenarios, it also gives us some very powerful advantages we can use to make our situation better for ourselves. Here are a few ways I have handled assignments where the staff has felt less than welcoming.
Don’t get caught up in gossip.
I have found that units that have higher rates of gossip among staff also tend to have higher rates of nitpicking and hurt feelings. It only takes a couple of days on a floor to gauge whether there is a high or low rate of chatter behind backs. If I sense there is a lot of gossip going on, I purposely remove myself from these conversations because the last thing I want to do is upset a new coworker by giving the impression that I am in the wrong social circle. We are not obligated to make friends with other staff members at each new assignment, so we have the advantage of simply coming to work for our patients and leaving personal relationships at the door.
Similarly, I have found myself chatting with other travelers who turn out to be very negative or outspoken about the facility and staff. In these situations, I make a point to distance myself from that person, and if we end up working together regularly I try to shut down the negativity as fast as possible. Keeping a middle ground on opinions about an assignment can be very helpful in staying out of the drama.
Focus on your days off rather than your work days.
In some situations, we simply cannot change the work environment we are walking into. If the unit I am working on is not only physically but emotionally draining I shift to a “get in, get out” mindset. While picking up extra shifts or staying late for overtime can be tempting, there is nothing worth sacrificing your mental health to an unfriendly environment for longer than necessary.
During stressful assignments, I also make a point to practice purposeful self-care on my off days. I prioritize exercise, rest, and getting some sunshine because those are the things I know make me happy. One assignment may require a little more downtime than the next, so be sure to read your body’s cues and listen to what it needs on your days off.
Embrace the “It’s only 13 weeks” mindset.
It can be easy to get caught up in drama or rude staff behaviors, but the beauty of travel is we get to walk away at the end of our assignment no matter what. It might sound a little selfish, but if I find myself feeling particularly irritated by a staff member, I take the time to think about how at the end of 13 weeks I get the option to move on to better opportunities while they are stuck in a job that is not serving them well.
Of course, these thoughts are probably best kept to yourself or expressed to a close friend, but sometimes just getting your feelings out can make a world of difference.
Don’t be afraid to report and document mistreatment.
As travel nurses, we have an extra layer of protection that comes from our company. While I don’t advise running to your recruiter for every small issue they can be helpful in navigating particularly unprofessional encounters. I typically keep my recruiter in the loop if I anticipate a situation could get worse, so I have documentation from the very beginning.
If you are in a situation where you are feeling depressed, anxious, or fearful about returning to work due to bullying, reach out to your travel company and ask to speak to their clinical liaison. This is someone who has worked in healthcare and is experienced in navigating tough professional situations. Most companies are also thankful to know of situations that are less than ideal for their travelers so they can possibly avoid future placements at facilities that do not treat temporary staff well.
At the end of the day, being prepared mentally will serve you well.
Lateral violence is not something we should have to deal with, but unfortunately, most experienced nurses have encountered it at some point in time. Going in with tools to approach these situations can be helpful in keeping yourself sane through a more difficult assignment.
Each assignment will bring with it a different culture to navigate. I am happy to say that my experience as a travel nurse has been overwhelmingly positive, and most staff is thrilled to have the extra helping hands. The naysayers are few and far between, and having these mental practices in place has helped tremendously with focusing on the positives of each assignment rather than the negatives.
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.
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