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Travel Nurses: What to Do About a Toxic Work Culture

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, August 09, 2018 Posted in On the Job

nursing stressIf you’ve dealt with a toxic workplace, you know how quickly passion can turn into dread. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stay confined to the schoolyard. Today, even adults are known for this type of harassment. However, their tactics are often more refined. Bullying is usually the leading cause of a toxic work environment in health care facilities. For travel nurses, toxic environments can feel particularly stressful.

The environment

Sometimes bullying occurs overtly, like when someone shows hostility. Other cases of bullying happen when the victim isn’t present to fight against it. Some workers describe being “thrown under the bus,” or blamed for mistakes that they didn’t make.

Workplace bullying has become relatively common in health care. One survey asked health care workers why they quit their jobs, and nearly half cited abusive behavior. Travel nurses in particular can become easy targets. Resident nurses may feel threatened by travel nurses. Some may think of travel nurses as “outsiders.” Every workplace has its own culture, and when a travel nurse has to learn the culture, other people in that workplace may be quick to point out mistakes.

☣ The impact of a toxic work culture ☠

As a travel nurse, your job is already stressful and emotionally charged. It carries so much stress that you certainly need a supportive environment. How can you find respite when other nurses and physicians want to add more stress to your workload? A toxic environment will erode your self-esteem, confidence, and attitude. In fact, stress can even impact your physical appearance and the way in which you carry yourself.

These changes rarely go unnoticed by your patients. They even feel residual stress, especially since many of them have to deal with stressful situations of their own. Furthermore, it causes you to have far less care and focus than you should have while caring for your patients. The results of this can be detrimental in many cases.

A few solutions

As a travel nurse, you have options to help you deal with toxicity. First, distance yourself from the problem. Of course, the term “distance yourself” doesn’t mean to ignore the problem. Instead, firmly let the bully know that you won’t play games, then only interact with this person if you must.

Second, maintain positivity. Bullies thrive on control and they love knowing that they affect the surrounding environment. When you stay positive, you take away their control which helps everyone in the workplace.

Third, focus on your patients. Remember why you pursued nursing in the first place. This tactic helps you provide the care that your patients need. It may also remind you of all the things you enjoy about your job rather than all the difficulties.

Fourth, give yourself a mental detox. Think about why you chose your location. Did you take a job in the Pacific Northwest for the hiking? Take a hike on your day off. Did you move to a big city because you love culture? See a musical. Avoid burnout by enforcing a no-work policy on your off days. Time off is for rest, not for thinking about work.

Finally, keep in mind that you don’t have to stay forever. If you want to leave after your assignment, then, by all means, tell your recruiter. Sometimes the promise of change is enough to help you power through your current situation. Furthermore, your recruiter is also your advocate. If a situation has become overwhelmingly toxic, do not hesitate to tell your agency.

Toxic workplaces do exist and working in one can affect your morale. Just because you are a travel nurse doesn’t mean you have to put up with a toxic environment. By taking steps to protect yourself, you can make the most of a difficult job until you can finally move on.

Our commitment to the health and well-being of travel nurses makes us the top recruiter for nurses. For more information, contact us online or call 888.299.9800. At Health Providers Choice, we dedicate our efforts to providing you a better, more rewarding experience.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.