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8 Bad Work Habits Nurses Should Defeat

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By Gil Wayne BSN, R.N.

If you want to be on top, be taken seriously, and have your administrator and your team think of you as an advantage to the group, doing things in a professional way is a key.

Most often we think that we have enough experience that we probably act too comfy and satisfied in what we do in our job. In the long run, we develop habits that can be detrimental and often we may not be aware of, or do little to correct them. And worst, we become negligent and fail to achieve what we are capable of doing great.

Our habits, good and bad, play a big role in defining who we are, and subsequently, how others look into our character. With this, it’s no wonder that practicing and applying good habits can greatly influence the success of our careers as nurses.

Here are some of the annoying work habits that lessen the possibilities for career development, and can even risk our employment (or lose it forever).

1. Coming to work late, either morning or night shift hours… is bad!

Do you have anything in mind that tells you being late has a good effect in you or in your job? Does it make you the most valuable employee if your team awaits for you to start the job as well? Definitely not. If you are the type of nurse who is always late, you will probably get in trouble anytime soon. People who are always late perceive they are only “sometimes late,” so if you think you are sometimes late, you are now in trouble.

Problem: The basic problem with this habit is that you give too much time for other things than focus on how to start your day right. What comes next is the outcome of it which reveals either disrespect or incompetence, both of which are important things to “not” have at work, and if you do have them, better get rid of them by being on time, ever.

Quick fix: Don’t pretend to be a “time optimist” if you are not. A time optimist is someone who thinks they can do more in a specific period of time than one can realistically do. People are late because they are not honest with themselves about how long things really take. Don’t wait for your boss to be notified. So if you really want to be on time, forget all your excuses—electricity is off, cars break down, alarms don’t go off—and just be honest to make few adjustments on your preppy time. It is possible to get the day started right and fill it with a positive, calm attitude.

2. Avoiding work, a big NO-NO.

You are a nurse and you are hired because they found something in you that the institution needs (yah, others were rejected then). These words may be in your thoughts for weeks after being employed. But if you are at your job a bit longer, you find yourself constantly hesitating to take on new things just because you are exceptionally skilled at finding someone who can do a task “better than you,” or the word “lazy” is applicable perhaps?

Problem: There is no doubt that there is always someone who is better to handle a job but don’t get confused; delegating work and simply avoiding it are two different things. To delegate a work means assigning different tasks for suitable people, while avoiding means you are not responsible enough to do the work at all. The more you avoid tasks, the more you become incompetent, and worst is you become negligent.

Quick fix: To overcome this corrupt habit, you don’t need to be Superman or Wonder Woman by saying “Yes” to every task. Remember, your willingness to be present and be of help positively reflects on you and your job as a nurse. The doctor may be out, but the nurse is always in! Also, if your team discovers your exceptional work ethics, they may not think twice to recommend you for important tasks in the future.

3. Power trips. You aren’t higher up.

Yes, we used to be student nurses and trainees wherein we received almost every punishment and mockery we deserve (though some we don’t). Name it, by the attending physician during our shift or by our very own clinical instructors to the point that we used to have the desire to revenge when we reach their level. This might sound crazy, but it’s true. Agree?

Problem: With high regard of our profession, we sometimes flaunt our power in a rude and disrespectful manner. As a more experienced nurse on the floor, you probably refused to help newbies when they really needed it, and even corrected their inevitable mistakes loudly and in public. Guilty or not, this happens all the time. This is often referred to as being on a “power trip.” Power tripping is often viewed negatively and can cause others to lose admiration, appreciation, and respect for you as an experienced nurse.

Quick fix: If you know who you really are, there is no point in amplifying that you are ahead and better than everyone else in your unit. Remember, everyone has the capacity to be in your shoes. That is because everyone has the ability to be great. Humility is the key. But you must remember that humility is not humiliation. It is having a humble heart, to show an outpouring love not only to your patients but also to your fellow nurses, to be able to assist starters, in any way you can, selfless service to all, without any selfish gain.

4. Gossiping… and gossiping.

That newly hired nurse flirts with all the doctors. I don’t like her at all. The nurse in that unit is never liked by her patients. Oh that guy in scrubs cheated on her girlfriend!… I think he needs to concentrate more on his job! I heard those two nurses will have some explaining to do with our supervisor for…

Problem: Does it ring a bell? If you have been in the job for quite some time, you’ve been probably infected with this contagious disease: gossip. As nurses, we gossip. Others even say, we’re world champion gossipmongers. In fact, not only do we gossip, we also enjoy it! It interests us so much—no matter if you don’t know the person or your co-worker whom you know too well. Yes we are curious beings, but there is a difference between being inquisitive and being a nosy gossip.

Quick fix: Gossip has its own little space in the nurses station—it is damaging and takes our attention off the patient. It is so easy to gossip and so disastrous to be gossiped about. What to do? Be careful on what you say. What comes from your mouth may mean a different thing to others. Instead of gossiping, why not devote your time towards perfecting your craft and advancing your career. Work harder and stamp out your participation in this unhealthy practice. It’s not easy to stop, but it is the right thing to do.

5. Procrastinating, then rushing.

Are you one of those people who work best under pressure? The disadvantage of this is that you tend to procrastinate. Procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.

Problem: Procrastination creates trouble when it begins to delay and disrupt your performance. Meds, charts, and requests get delayed, you get stressed, and the quality of your work can suffer. Personal calls, extended breaks, social media, or even playing online games—are only some of the many extra habits that may contribute this. In the end, you have no choice but to rush things out. The work may be complete but the results are only so-so.

Quick fix: The best way to eliminate this habit is by prioritizing your tasks, managing your time well, and dedicating your 100% to your job. Give yourself strict deadlines and cultivate a desire to serve your patients more, not just check tasks off on a to-do list.

6. Hypersensitivity, ruminating, and taking things too personally

As nurses, we interact with an assortment of people on a daily basis, from our fellow nurses to our patients, from our closest friends to strangers around us. There are those people with whom we get along quite well while there are those who may be harder to connect and communicate with, who make us feel sick everytime they speak.

Problem: In our profession, there would always be someone who’s treating you poorly and someone who’s not always satisfied with what you do. Someone who always gives you negative feedback, and you interpret it as a personal attack. While a lot of us know that we shouldn’t take things personally, on a practical level, we still do ruminate. I admit, it’s not easy to swallow criticism, but we can completely control how personally we take things. Even if it may seem like it’s always something about you, most of the time it’s simply not.

Quick fix: When you take things personally, you are letting other people overpower what you are capable of doing. In effect, you are allowing someone to question what you feel and believe (although there are times when you do get it wrong and you have to be aware of that too). If the intent is usually constructive and aims to help you excel, then you should at least accept, move on, and allow yourself to grow. But if you always feel the other way, maybe because something negative is running within you that needs to be corrected. Just relax, take it easy, and enjoy your job without too much thinking!

7. Being careless, messy, and disorganized — Oops!

The nurse did not time and date the record. The entries are not signed. The nurse created a late entry without labeling it as such. The nurse thought no one would recognize the information was added in after the fact. The nurse left blanks on forms, making us wonder if the care was given and not recorded, or not given at all.

Problem: Sound familiar? If you have been in the job long enough, I guess you already noticed a lot of nurses with this careless attitude, or should I say you are also guilty of it too. Illegible writing, spelling errors, lack of proofreading, messy preparations, and disorganized worksheets, which can lead to much more serious outcomes—these are just some of the many flaws that most often influence findings of liability and confuse the understanding of what happened to a patient.

Quick fix: As professional nurses, we are required to be precise, decisive, and specific in everything that we do. Remember, we are dealing with life and death situations. Our patients trust us so much that they are willing to submit themselves to our care. Being careless can lead to being messy and disorganized. If you are guilty with these, now is the right time for you to drop this faulty habit. You need to have a balanced and focused state of mind and concentrate on your job as a nurse. The better you perform your job and the better the quality of your work, the more you will be valued by your employer. Moreover, the more you concentrate on doing quality work, the more you will continuously improve.

8. Putting personal desires first before work

Let’s say, the first thing you do at the nurses station is log into Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Instagram? And it’s also the thing you do before and after charting, carrying out medications, or taking your patient’s vital signs. Problem diagnosed, you are addicted to these social networking sites.

Problem: The best nurses have one thing in common: they love interacting with people. Being sociable isn’t a problem at all, but too much of it may cause you trouble. Social networks such as Facebook, Google+ and the like may not only waste a lot of your working time, but it can also decrease your productivity in serving your patients and may have a direct impact in the quality of your service.

Quick fix: The balance of work and social media needs to be maintained. Work is work and your social life should not be part of it. If there is really a need for you to check messages and emails (photos and post updates from your FB friends not included) during your working hours, you’ll have to do so during your break. But if you are a self-proclaimed addict to social media, you have to acknowledge your addiction first. Accept the fact that you are addicted and know that you ought to get over this addiction to concentrate on your job. Next, think about the useful things you could be doing instead of wasting time on these sites. You can teach your patients about their medical problems and how to take care of themselves. You can also make sure you set yourself clear goals. And having clear goals and understanding the importance of your work can be a great motivator. It can also help you better prioritize your work.

Keep in mind that to be a nursing professional, you don’t have to get more letters after your name. It’s also in the way you appear and act.

The more you defeat the eight points listed above, the better the odds you’ll build a positive reputation for yourself. And at the end of the day, your personal growth as a nurse is tested on how much you push yourself to work really hard and be deserving of the numbers you get.


Gil Wayne ignites the minds of future nurses through his work as a part-time nurse instructor, writer, and contributor for Nurseslabs, striving to inspire the next generation to reach their full potential and elevate the nursing profession.

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