Nurse's Negativity

by Tara Trester

An event from my junior year pediatric rotation left a big impression. I observed nurses in the pediatric intensive care unit caring for a patient hospitalized due to a drug overdose. The patient was comatose and on a ventilator. One particular nurse sat at the nurse's station loudly discussing the patient's condition, adding her personal opinion that no additional efforts should be made to care for this patient because the state was paying for the care.

The situation left an impression—a negative impression. I left early from clinical observation that day. I felt sick as a result of what I'd witnessed by those in my profession. I had numerous positive experiences in my clinical rotations, but this one lingers in my mind. negative I had started the day hoping to learn from experienced nurses how to care for critically ill pediatric patients; I left realizing that those who are unhappy with their jobs or lives negatively impact others.

The article "Combating Cynicism" by Gregory Jones (2009) describes the all too common situation where nurses focus on their personal opinions of patients instead of focusing on patient needs. As a student, I observed that nurses who slandered patients seem less satisfied. In general, these nurses were less willing to work with students, took less time with patients, and interactions were more negative. In contrast, the nurses who were satisfied seemed more willing to work with students, had positive interactions with coworkers, and demonstrated a caring attitude toward patients.

A study by Kangas, Kee, and McKee-Waddle (1999) examined what factors affect employee satisfaction of nurses. They found that nurses who felt their organization supported and valued nursing rated their employee satisfaction higher; if nurses felt their care was critical to patients, satisfaction increased. These results suggest that those employees who are supported and encouraged by their employer and feel their role is important are more satisfied with their job. Ultimately increased job satisfaction correlates to better patient care, hopefully decreasing judgmental attitudes toward patients.

These ideas are one suggestion to decreasing nurse negativity. I encourage nurses to consider how our attitudes affect students, patients, and colleagues.

Tara Trester is a 2010 graduate of Saint Anthony College of Nursing in Rockford, Illinois.

See this article, Nurse's Negativity, and others from the Journal of Christian Nursing, January—March, 2011.



You touch on nursing satisfaction as related to negativity. I have been thinking about nursing satisfaction related to their effectiveness, particularly in the patient teaching they do. In an informal poll of nurses in a wide variety of settings, over 60% felt that of all the teaching they did, less than 25% made any lasting changes in patients lives. Considering how much time nurses spend teaching patients, this could lead to a lot of disillusionment and negativity!

Thanks for that Biblical perspective, Kathy! I hadn't gotten that far yet, so it was a great reminder. I do wonder, though, if there isn't something we could be doing about the situation; if we shouldn't work on being more "intentional" with our teaching; and do less rote, by-the-book teaching according to the demands of other disciplines, however valid their perspective (legal, medical, administrative, 3rd-party payor). It's boring! For us and the patient. And with those results, obviously a major waste of time. We've all had that joyful "aha" moment of seeing something we've taught hit a patient at exactly the right way at the right time. Wouldn't it be great if we were free to focus on creating those moments? Instead of that sheaf of papers, just looking the patient in the eye and saying something like, "So, what do you need to know to keep this from happening again?" I think we and our patients would be alot less stressed, bored, and dissatisfied with our roles!

Abigail, I agree with you and see your point. I work with the mentally ill and those with addictions in my clinical practice and it seems we NEVER make a difference. Reminds me of Isaiah 49:4 where the Servant of the Lord says, "I have labored to no purpose, I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing." However, the Servant goes on to say, "Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God." Jesus certainly could have felt he labored in vain as he was criticized by religious leaders, made fun of by the people, abandoned by his closest friends, and finally killed. But in the end, he won our salvation! I was encouraged reading these words in Isaiah and thinking my work will be blessed by God and he has my reward, even though I don't see it now (Colossians 3:22-23).

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