Are You a Bad Apple or a Good Egg?

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Here is a thought experiment. Take note of your mood. Now, think of the last thing you remember someone saying that made you nervous, upset, or angry. Think of that thing for a few minutes from all angles. Repeatedly bring it to mind, allowing your mind to explore questions such as, were they right? Is the thing correct? Could it be? Should you be worried?

Has your mood changed? When you finish the few minutes it takes you to read this post, consider whether your mind has continued to wonder about it, and just make a mental note about whether you feel a little worse than you did before...just a little, maybe.

Nursing is a difficult, stressful profession to be in at any time. Lately it is worse because of the changing healthcare environment and the financial squeezes trickling (or flooding) down to nurse managers and, therefore, to staff nurses. Nurses grumble. It is human nature to resent being asked to do more with less when you are already foregoing lunch breaks and being forced to compromise the patient care you would prefer to give.

However, consider this: grumbling and a bad attitude worsen the situation. Who hasn't experienced an awful shift that was rescued and even turned in to a fist-pumping victory by the entire staff joining together with a positive attitude and getting everything done? In fact, ironically, those are the shifts that nurses remember with nostalgia! "Remember that time we had the who back-to-back codes and we had had three call-ins and the lady in room 123 kept pushing her call button while we were doing compressions because the blankets felt too heavy on her toes? That was AWESOME!"

Who hasn't woken up on the right side of the bed and gone to work in a good mood only to sit in a pod next to a Suzie Sour who thinks aloud all day and finds that by the end of the day that good mood has transformed into bitterness, exhaustion, and even anger? If Suzie comments here and there all day ("oh, great, now we also have to fill out that form: I totally went to nursing school to be a secretary" or "now they're making us take 7 patients; pretty soon the hospital will be like a nursing home where each RN has 30 patients with a bunch of CNAs to take care of them all, and we'll all lose our licenses" get the picture), the chances are pretty good that your mood will slip down a peg at a time until you're right there with Suzie. Unless you are superhuman, you'll end up making a comment or two yourself and spread Suzie's sunshine on to another coworker who might be trying to have a good day.

That's how a bad apple spoils the whole barrel. I'm not sure how to tie the egg thing in, but be the good egg. Remember that statistically speaking (I am making this statistic up because it is useful), there is a 50% chance for any given unknown outcome that it will be positive. New management? You might like them better. New policy? It might end up saving you work. New charting system? You might offer to allow its removal over your dead body after 6 months. Wait and see.

If you can't modify your attitude, at least keep it to yourself. A bad attitude is exhausting. You wouldn't cough on your colleagues when you're sick. Have the same consideration with spreading your fears and negativity. They are just as contagious and just as miserable to grapple with.

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