How to Support your Nursing Colleagues


Published: 24 August 2015

When you work as a nurse, you rely heavily on your nursing colleagues to get you through the day. Everybody working together for the good of the patients is a great feeling, and it can turn a bad shift into an empowering example of the muscle of nursing collaboration.

However, with the animosity that can sometimes build up between co-workers, it is important to come up with ways to be supportive and not derisive. Yes, nursing is hard, and yes, you may not have the time to help. That’s not what supporting means. It means being there for your colleagues when they are overwhelmed to the point of collapse. Working together means sharing the load, helping someone today because you may be the one who needs help tomorrow.

Avoid Gossip

Gossip is a plague that brings down many nurses that would otherwise have no problems with their profession. No one knows where gossip starts exactly. It is always something that someone heard from someone else about the person in question. Usually, no one takes the time to determine if the gossip is correct. In fact, no one confronts the gossiper or the one gossiped about to find out what the whole story is. Unfortunately, gossip is rife on every nursing floor, in every facility, in all countries.

Avoid gossip. nursing

Of course, this is not supportive of your nursing colleagues. It undermines the fundamental trust between colleagues and can lead to resentment, taking sides and patient danger. When a nurse won’t help a struggling co-worker, then the patient could definitely feel the effects of that. To support your colleagues, it is better not to participate in gossip. Don’t listen to it. Don’t pass it on. Admittedly, this is sometimes hard to do because people are curious about others. At the very least, play the skeptic. Ask how the gossiper knows what they are saying is true.

Help Out When You Can

Nursing really is a team sport. Think about it. You need help to pull patients up in bed, ambulate them and tend to them in emergencies. It is impossible for a nurse to work on their own without the support of their colleagues. Aside from these obvious instances to help, you can help you co-workers out in other ways too. If you see a nurse drowning in too much work and getting overwhelmed, ask how you can help them out. This does not mean that you neglect your own work. It means stepping up when your work is done and offering a hand.

Many nurses are against helping other their co-workers. They may think that they have already done their work and deserve a break. Some nurses feel that if they help, then their colleagues will always expect help. A smaller subset of nurses just don’t like the struggling nurse and refuse to help. This reluctance to support each other is counterproductive to creating a team environment. Helping out is the number one way to make a co-worker feel supported and to encourage teamwork between nurses.

Learn to Deal With Difficult People

All sorts of people become nurses, and some of them have personalities that are abrasive. Although they may treat patients well, that personality trait comes out in dealing with others, such as co-workers. How do you know when you have a difficult person, though? The nurse will often be abusive to other nurses, making snide comments or perpetuating gossip about them. Someone with a difficult personality may be immune to rational conversation. You may assertively attempt to resolve the problem, but no amount of talking helps to heal the conflict.

Learning how to deal with difficult people is a vast topic with many resources. If you feel you have a difficult person on your floor, you may want to reference these books for in-depth strategies for dealing with that person’s particular personality quirks.

Building an effective team in your workplace is beneficial, not only to you and your co-workers, but also to your patients. Take the time to notice the people that are struggling, those who are gossiping and those who are creating conflict. Offer your help and support to overcome these behaviours. We are all working towards the same end goal, improved patient care, and all of us need help and support in achieving this.
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  • Psychology Today, Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable and Difficult People
  • WebMD, Difficult People
  • Violence in Nursing
  • Defusing Horizontal Violence