How to Spot a Bad Nurse Before it’s too Late

MARCH 07, 2016
Ryan Gray, MD
In my last post, I discussed the characteristics that good nurses possess that enable them to make a positive impact on a patient’s care experience. Unfortunately, bad nurses can make a significant negative impact on patient care—sometimes even more profoundly. So, how do you spot a bad nurse before it’s too late?
Here are some telltale signs that a nurse is bad news:
1.     Job hopping. Although a lengthy job history can provide a nurse with a range of experiences in a variety of care settings, a job-hopping nurse can spell trouble. If a nurse has had many jobs and only stays for a short time (say, around a year or so), be sure to carefully question the nurse about his or her job track record during the interview.
A history of problems with co-workers, management or patients will usually be detectable, but only if you are paying close attention. When asked to explain the circumstances surrounding the departures from previous jobs, bad nurses will often appear angry, badmouth their previous employers or blame others.
2.     A bad attitude. If you encounter a nurse who become easily frustrated, is curt with patients or complains constantly, run in the other direction. Now, everyone has a bad day once in a while, but a continuously disgruntled nurse is in no position to care for sick patients and family members who are sad, scared and overwhelmed. A nurse with a bad attitude will seldom smile, can be sarcastic and is always quick to make a negative remark.
3.     Gossiping. Nurses should be loyal to their patients—period. Although some patients can be especially challenging to deal with, that is no cause for a nurse to badmouth them behind their back. If a nurse is gossiping, mocking, judging or otherwise saying negative things about a patient or their family, beware.
At best, this kind of talk is unprofessional and could damage the nurse’s relationship with the patient. At worst, undue negative chatter could result in a serious privacy violation or distract the nurse from performing his or her duties. And, although it seems less insidious than gossiping about patients, gossiping about co-workers is another warning sign.
In his book, Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey likens gossip to poisoning your team. I agree 100% and try to stop gossip in it’s tracks. Gossip, according to Ramsey, outside of the traditional sense, is any complaining to somebody who can’t fix the problem you are complaining about.

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