Nurses’ Guide: 3 Tips to Deal with Difficult Nurse Coworkers

Last Updated on July 31, 2023

Nurses’ Guide to Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

“How do you deal with difficult nurse coworkers?” It’s one of the most common interview questions, for nurses along with everyone else. But as many nurses also know, actually dealing with difficult coworkers is too often the reality in an already-difficult job. For nurses, it can interfere with job satisfaction, as well as the ability to perform your job to the best of your abilities.

We’re here to help nurses navigate every aspect of their career. And that includes insights into some of the day-to-day challenges you may have not learned about in nursing school! With that in mind, here’s our guide for dealing with difficult coworkers in the nursing profession.

Nurses’ Guide to Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

Of course, every nurse knows the basics of coping with difficult situations. Whether it’s getting through 12-hour shifts, or a million other challenges, the day-to-day realities of the nursing profession require an ability to adapt and perform under pressure.

Of course, dealing with difficult nurse coworkers will always be part of that equation, to some extent. But toxic personalities in the workplace are also a unique problem all their own. It’s a challenge that even the most adaptable, positive and professional nurse can struggle with. With that in mind, it’s important to understand your options, and how to carry them out.

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Dealing with Difficult Nurse Coworkers:
How to Let Your Supervisor Know

Difficult nurse coworkers are the main feature of a toxic workplace, where conditions are so negative that pretty much everyone feels stressed out and unhappy every day. Yes, every job has a certain level of stress. But nobody should have to deal with the constant unhappiness caused by another colleague or an otherwise toxic workplace.

A visibly-frustrated nurse wearing a blue scrubs and stethoscope, thinking about managing conflict in nursing in front of a white bookcase
Pro Tip: Being understanding is a key to managing conflict in nursing.

If the source of your stress is a specific coworker, your first step should be reaching out to your team lead or manager to let them know what you’re experiencing.

It’s important, though, to phrase your statement as a challenge that you’d like help with and not as an accusation against another worker.

No matter how at-fault the other person may seem, or how in the right you are, it’s important to avoid making this into a personal complaint. Doing so can quickly backfire, and make it seem like you’re the source of the problem.

For this same reason, it’s important to remain calm and polite when relating this info to your manager. If you’re not sure if you can, practice at home first with a friend or loved one.

Dealing with Difficult Nurse Coworkers:
Stay on Top of Your Mental Health

When dealing with difficult coworkers in the nursing space, sometimes there just isn’t much that can be done to solve the issue. At a time when every nurse is critical, people who may be contributing to a toxic workplace are sometimes still kept on staff from sheer necessity.

When that happens, it’s important to figure out how to cope. After all, a “toxic work environment is more than just an inconvenience,” as Sam Bowman writes at Minority Nurse.

“It’s more than just something to ‘trudge through’. In fact, an unhealthy work environment can contribute to a variety of physical and mental health issues.”  

As Bowman explains, the constant burden of stress caused by toxic coworkers can lead to some dangerous conditions, including fatigue, muscle cramps, upset stomach and even high blood pressure or heart issues.

If those conditions sound familiar, it may be because they’re also commonly associated with nurse burnout and compassion fatigue. The good news is that many of the best practices can help you cope with both, including practicing self-care, staying focused on your own personal wellbeing, and learning how to ask for help.

Dealing with Difficult Nurse Coworkers:
How to Handle Toxic Management

Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with difficult nurse coworkers, the problem isn’t always one you can refer to your supervisor — sometimes, the toxic personality in the workplace is your team lead or manager!

If that’s the case, you may be able to speak to the next person in the chain of command. However, some nurses may be intimidated by the idea of doing this. They may not know the individual very well, or may be afraid to seem like they’re going behind someone’s back.

>Did You Know: Our 24/7 Clinical Services Team is available to provide support to nurses and clinicians on assignment?

If someone at work is causing a toxic environment and no improvement is seen, it may be time to develop an exit plan. Seeking support from understanding colleagues can also be helpful.

Explore New Opportunities with CareerStaff

The good news is that, as an experienced nurse, plenty of opportunities await you. In fact, choosing to escape a toxic environment could be the perfect opportunity to pursue that nursing job you’ve always dreamed of.

Not only do we offer great gigs from coast to coast, but we’re also known for our recruiters and 24/7 Clinical Services team who are knowledgeable and available to help when you need it. Quick apply today to learn more about our nursing careers or search all jobs now.

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