Destructive Nursing - The Chronic Complainer
Every nursing unit has one–the coworker who always seems to have a problem with anything and everything.
The truth is that when working in the healthcare industry, it's nearly impossible to avoid frustration. Nurses face challenging situations every day: hard to work with co-workers, stubborn physicians, withdrawn administration, difficult patients, and demanding family members. These all come with the responsibility of being a nurse, yet sometimes you need to vent and blow off some steam. Venting can be a healthy way to let go of frustration and anger, but beware, overusing this privilege will lead you down a path you don't want to be on–the road to becoming a chronic complainer.
“Chronic complainers,” as described by Dr. Winch, “usually see a glass that is slightly chipped holding water that isn't cold enough, probably because it's tap water when I asked for bottled water and wait, there's a smudge on the rim, too. Which means the glass wasn't cleaned properly and now I'll probably end up with some kind of virus” (The Squeaky Wheel, 2011) Complaining is an aloof activity, which keeps you stagnant and promotes floundering in adversity. It originates from a position of weakness and fuels the idea that nothing will ever change. This type of overbearing negative behavior can be infectious, and can spread like wild fire throughout the halls of a unit, because as people, we tend to undertake the practices and behaviors of individuals we invest the most time with. For nurses, a 12-hour shift with a chronic complaining coworker can be enough time to contract this type of attitude.
When you are surrounded by nurses with these behaviors you will begin to view everything as awful; possibly miss out on opportunities due to the fact that no one will want to promote a grouchy nurse; you will become “patient zero” for this sickness, helping the outbreak spread even further; and as a result will lead to burn out. There are ways to keep clear of chronic complainers and to prevent yourself from ever becoming one.
Keep in mind that chronic complainers are experts at pulling you into their cyclone of misery. Try one of these tips if you feel the bug beginning to latch onto you:
- Validate: This may be the fastest and easiest way to deal with a chronic complainer because what they want most is to be heard. So do just that and then remove yourself from the situation quickly after.
- Avoid advice: Chronic complainers don't want solutions to the problems at hand, they just want to complain. If given advice, they will only try harder to prove to you how bad things are for them. So, stay away from trying to help them deal with their problems.
- Change the subject: First express sympathy towards them to validate their feelings, then redirect by asking a question completely unrelated to their complaints, such as, “Where are you going on your vacation?” Or, “How are the kids?” You can likewise redirect them to the current work to be done, for instance, “Oh wow! That is terrible, I am so sorry to hear that, I hope everything is okay, but hey let me finish getting this report from you so you can go home and relax.”
To avoid ever becoming a chronic complainer, these tips may help protect you from falling into this contagious behavior:
- Surround yourself with positive people: This is kind of like the saying you are what you eat, except you are what you surround yourself with. Having positive people around will only bring happiness and encouragement into your life, which will improve the way you envision life and your career.
- Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine! Like complaining and negativity, humor and laughter are infectious, increasing happiness and assurance. Laughter brightens your mood, motivates trust, inspires hope, unites you with others, and helps to keep you grounded, centered, and alert. Even if nothing is funny, find a reason to laugh!
- Exercise: Exercise is known to be a great way to boost your level of happy endorphins and helps to release any built-up stress or emotions you may have.
- Address any problems you may have: Maybe this implies standing up to a work bully or expressing your feelings about unfair assignments. You may even decide to see a counselor to help you manage any particular issues that may be provoking these emotions. This could also mean finding a new job. The good thing about travel nursing is that you are only subject to that one environment for a short amount of time, but if moving yourself to new surroundings will help improve your mood, go for it! The only wrong thing to do in this case is doing nothing at all.
Nursing isn't an easy profession, but it is one of the main occupations out there that gives us the chance to make a difference in the lives of others every day. However, if you let yourself fall into this toxic behavior you will never feel good about the amazing work you do as a nurse.