Someday, somewhere, somehow, you will encounter an uncomfortable situation on the job. It may be a hostile coworker, inadequate resources or support, an unsafe working environment — or any number of other challenges that will eventually occur just as surely as the sun rises in the east. And because you are a nurse or paraprofessional, those stressful experiences can take on even greater emotional weight because human lives are part of the equation.

    Here are a few strategies you can try when an uncomfortable situation threatens to escalate.

    Difficult patients — Like it or not, the nurse is often the first person who encounters a patient’s distress, and you may find yourself on the receiving end of a patient’s anger at a situation that has nothing to do with you. First, take a few deep breaths (trite, but it really helps) and calmly let the patient know you are sympathetic to their concerns and want to help in any way you can. Make eye contact, listen quietly to the patient’s complaint and convey empathy as they vent their issues. If appropriate, you can tactfully offer to call in another staff member (social worker, chaplain, financial counselor) who can directly help them deal with their problem. Or maybe the problem is as easy to resolve as adjusting bed linens or room lighting, easily accompanied by a smile and cheerful comment from you. You’d be surprised how often a gentle, humorous remark or sincere reassurance can defuse a patient’s distress, especially if its real cause is something like fear of an upcoming procedure.

    Difficult coworkers — Interpersonal conflicts are far from rare in any work situation. You may encounter resentment, hostility, or even bullying from another nurse, paraprofessional, or other staff member for a variety of reasons, including the fact that you are temporary staff. It goes without saying that you should always avoid internal politics, but you can’t always avoid someone you work with shoulder to shoulder every day.

    You can, however, head off unpleasantness from your first day on the job by projecting an attitude of cooperation, interest, noncompetition, and willingness to shoulder your full share of the position’s responsibilities. Tactfully let coworkers know you are invested in their success as well as your own, and your role in this assignment is to help alleviate their overload, not to show them up or take away their jobs. Demonstrate respect for their knowledge and competence, and offer sincere praise. If you can’t resolve the issue on your own, reach out to your charge nurse, unit manager, and be sure to call your nurse supervisor at Freedom, who will in turn help facilitate a resolution.

    Disrespect, bullying, aggression, and other inappropriate behavior — According to OSHA, health care workers are four times more likely than private industry workers to experience workplace violence. If you encounter overt hostility or actively dangerous behavior on the part of anyone you come in contact with while on the job, remove yourself from the scene if possible and report the incident immediately to your on-site supervisor and hospital security, as well as your Freedom nurse supervisor.  Don’t take chances with your safety by attempting to handle the situation by yourself, especially if others are not present.

    In short, if you ever find yourself dealing with a difficult or awkward situation, remember your entire team at Freedom Healthcare has your back. Whether you just need an impartial listener to vent your frustration or immediate help extricating yourself from a potentially dangerous situation, we are always just a phone call away, so call us any time at 866-463-0385.

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