Any experienced nurse can walk in to any particular unit and tell almost immediately if it’s a happy place to work. There’s something about the body language, maybe, or the lack of laughter, or how the nurses present themselves. Like pornography or good art, you can’t exactly put you finger on defining it, but nevertheless, you know it when you see it. I like to think (for all of my moaning and biting) my own little corner of nursedom is a fairly happy place to work, or at least, it’s far, far better than most of the places I’ve worked.
My father has a chronic condition which requires fairly regular if infrequent visits to a particular Toronto-area hospital for consultation. So today I spent the day with him and his wife at this hospital while he was getting treatment. While my father was in the procedure room, I remarked to his wife (who incidentally is a retired nurse, and a pretty sharp observer, to boot) that the nurses working in the short stay unit seemed particularly unhappy.
“Oh yes,” she replied. “I’ve talked to a few of them and they’ve all said it isn’t a pleasant place to work.” She lowered he voice. “In fact, I’ve seen the manager come on the floor and ream out a few of them here in front of patients and families. Totally, totally inappropriate.”
At that moment the manager came out. She was short and pale, and looked like she ate nursing licences for breakfast. Hell, she scared even me. There was an immediate stiffening amongst the nurses, and a couple of them, I noticed, surreptitiously left the unit through a back exit. Definitely an authoritarian, then. I felt sorry for this gem’s staff.
If I were a manager, and my staff were avoiding me like the Ebola virus, I might think I may have a problem. She probably thinks she’s doing a good job, and has mastered the voo-doo arts of human resources management.
I emphatically would not work that particular unit, nor would I work in a hospital that supports that management style. It’s bad nursing and bad for nursing.
I wondered though: in choosing between a happy work place and an unhappy one, wouldn’t you choose the former and eschew the latter as being unfavourable for morale and a quality nursing work-life environment, and therefore poor inducement for retention and recruitment, and more importantly, an indicator for poor patient outcomes?