How to Avoid Hospital Drama as a Travel Nurse

When asked why they chose travel nursing, many of our nurses sited “avoiding hospital drama” as one of the main reasons.

However, what do you do when you get caught up in hospital drama when you are on assignment? Good question.

Recently, we came across an inquiry from a travel nurse on Reddit who wrote about an encounter she had with a rude doctor. She ended her post by asking “how do you deal with rude physicians when on assignment?”

While it’s true that doctors, as well as other healthcare professionals, can take their bad day out on other staff members, what if drama becomes the norm? How do you deal with those who, intentionally or unintentionally, create conflict?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, we’ve created a list of four of our favorite tips to deal with hospital drama.

1. Know Who You Are Dealing With

Author and Personal Coach, Kaley Klemp, explains there are four types of people that cause workplace drama: Complainers, Cynics, Controllers, and Caretakers. Being familiar with these different types of people will not only help you understand the root of the drama or conflict at hand, but it will also give you the tools to cope when conflict arises.

Below is a brief description of the different types of these dramatics and Klemp’s solution to dealing with them. For a more in-depth explanation, you can read more here.

Complainers: complain and often blame everyone around them for their work not getting done.

Solution: only listen to their complaint once. Then, make sure to follow up by asking the complainer what he or she believes is a solution to the problem.

Cynics: are sarcastic and can be arrogant and manipulative.

Solution: compliment them. No really. By saying something nice and sincere to them, they will be more open to talking in the future when conflicts surrounding their behavior arises.

Controllers: like to be in control and will do anything and everything to make sure they stay in charge. Micromanagers and sometimes even bullies fall into this category.

Solution: the solution lies in knowing where your responsibilities begin and end. Make sure you and the controller both know what each of your responsibilities are. This will allow you to set and enforce boundaries.

Caretaker: are people that need to feel liked and valued. The problem is they often let their co-workers down by over promising and then under delivering as they get too tied up making other commitments.

Solution: remind them to set boundaries so they don’t take on too much work. You can also help them by reinforcing the idea that sometimes (or in their case almost all the time) saying “no” is a good thing.

2. Don’t Let Yourself Get Sucked into It

While drama sometimes can’t be avoided, take as many measures as possible to not get sucked into it.

A nurse on an forum suggested putting on imaginary horse blinders when interacting with your co-workers. She recommended focusing on your job and patients instead of paying any attention to what the other nurses say.

While it can take a lot to let a co-worker’s comment roll off your shoulder, if it’s a one-time affair it may be worth it. However, if it becomes a regular occurrence, it is probably time to talk to a manager.

3. Learning How to Play Nice

Another nurse on the same forum said that as a manager she used “complaint boxes” to get her staff to play nice with each other.

“I had a “female dog” complaint box. I had a drama complaint box. I had a real concern/patient safety box and a whining box for the employees to voice their opinions and feelings. But I had a bigger prettier kudos box. I made it very clear that I tolerated NO pettiness or back stabbing and if they had nothing nice to say they were to say nothing at all. All complaints had to be written to the box first” she wrote.

If the nurse still felt like their complaint hadn’t been heard, she encouraged them to follow up with a scheduled discussion to address their issue. While this is only one tried and tested way to get different personalities to work together, the bottom line is: find a way to get along or at least tolerate your coworkers.

4. Don’t Fan the Fire, Instead Try Talking It Out

No matter where you work, heated confrontations, especially in high-stress environments, are never a good idea, especially in high-stress environments. If you do find yourself on the verge of getting into an altercation, it’s best to take a deep breath and walk away. Give you self a chance to cool down and put things in perspective.

Try to identify the cause of the argument. Perhaps ask yourself does your adversary fall into one of Klemp’s four main drama types? If so perhaps try resolving the conflict using one of her suggested solutions.

If it’s a simple misunderstanding, simply ask your co-worker, “can we talk this out?” after you have had some time to cool down. Even if it’s a serious matter, trying to talk it out still isn’t a bad idea. Be sure you review the hospital’s policies and perhaps have your manager present when you try having your follow-up conversation.

Did you already know all these tips and tricks for avoiding work drama?

Great! Go ahead and read the Reddit nurse’s post in full below as well as our solution. Then, let us know if you would add anything else!

Here is what the Reddit nurse wrote:

So I’m 3 weeks into an assignment, and I was feeling pretty damn good about it, until today. I was getting ready to transfer a pt out and had to leave the room to grab something, and when I came back, there was a dr at the bedside. He sounded like he was wrapping up, so I proceeded to dc an ivpb abx I had running. Dr the moved around bed an I couldn’t reach the IV to disconnect, so I stood by and waited patiently. Dr: you sound like you’re in a rush here Me: sound? I’ve not made any noise. We’re not in any rush at all. Dr: I’m going to need to speak with you outside of this room. I walked out, and he didn’t follow, so I went along getting stuff ready to move this pt out. I come out of the med room, and he’s talking to my charge nurse and as soon as he sees me yells “that nurse! ” and points at me. I walk over, and he stares at me wide eyed and says “Don’t you ever interrupt me when I’m seeing my patients.” Me being dumbfounded at this point and not wanting to escalate the situation and partially embarrassed he’s saying this loudly at the nurse’s station in front of my charge nurse (who didn’t say shit by the way) I respond with “yes sir” Dr: “EVER!” With his hand up like an asshole in front of my face. I walked away. I’ve honestly been yelled at by physicians but it’s been a while, and this just made me so angry today even though it wasn’t that bad. All I kept thinking was I didn’t do anything. My pt and their spouse even asked if everything was alright when I returned to the room, I said of course! You’re getting out of here so it’s a good thing to which they responded we mean with you and that Dr. We don’t like the way he spoke to you and we’re not sure we want him to be on my case. I reassured them it was fine and that he felt I interrupted. To which they replied not all! You’ve been doing a wonderful job, don’t let him ruin your day. They even offered to report him to management for me. I told them it wasn’t necessary. How do y’all deal with physicians when confronted like this? Sometimes I feel like they power trip and just wanna see how far they can push someone.

As for our advice, this is our response: 

What happened to you sucks, pure and simple. No one should be yelled at by another co-worker.

It sounds like something got lost in translation. Asking the doctor what he perceived happened may clear things up and help you resolve this misunderstanding. Approach him and say “you’re a great physician, but the way you dealt with me when we were [insert scenario] made me confused and upset.” Hopefully this can then begin a productive conversation.

If a future altercation occurs or if you don’t feel comfortable with this tactic, then look up the hospital’s policies and take your concern to your overseeing manager.

Regardless, the worst thing you can do in the future is excuse their behavior by letting it go unacknowledged.

Do you have some words of wisdom of your own? Share it with us on our contact form!

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