Turn Nursing Negativity into Positive Action


Published: 03 November 2016

Nurses face many challenges throughout their professional nursing careers, and remaining positive amidst the storm can feel daunting.

When nurses get together over a meal or a drink after work, the talk can frequently turn negative. In a community of nurses, it is generally accepted that a certain amount of moaning and complaining is the norm, and many of us can attest to the fact that these conversations are sometimes fairly strident in tone.

While complaining allows an individual to psychologically unburden themselves, there is often a point when such negativity becomes counter-productive. Nurses can easily collude with one another regarding how horrible hospital administration may be, but such talk - when unchecked - can cause a ripple effect that colours everyone’s work experience with a cloud of anger and resentment.

Can this be transformed?

Use Positivity as a Buffer

When witnessing or participating in such negative conversations, a skilled nurse can empathise with the struggles being voiced, and subsequently offer a positive reflection, asking their colleagues to see other sides of a complex situation while formulating ideas for improvement.

Without making excuses for inexcusably poor management or rampant overstaffing, for example, techniques of positive psychology and other schools of thought can be utilised to turn simple complaints into useful data that can then be transformed into action geared towards positive change.

nursing negativity

Positive Action as Motivation for Change

Complaints simply remain complaints if potential solutions are not formed into a specific plan of action. For instance, if a group of nurses has identified that one member of the nursing staff is engaging in behaviour that could be characterised as the bullying, intimidation or harassment of other nurses, actions can be taken to change the situation.

While complaining about this particular nurse allows a discharge of frustration and anger, the complaints themselves are not terribly useful. However, if the group chooses to launch a concerted campaign to document the aberrant behaviour and gather statements from witnesses, these nurses move from simply complaining to taking inspired action; this change in thinking is incredibly empowering and motivating.

The Nursing Process of Positive Change

The nursing process leads us from assessment and nursing diagnosis to intervention and evaluation. Taking action in the interest of positive change can move nurses from a passive role (e.g. complaining) to an active role (e.g. gathering data).

If a nurse is working with a patient who cannot accept a new diagnosis, what does the nurse do? They empathise with the patient and let them know that their concerns are valid; once the patient feels heard, the nurse then turns the conversation towards useful actions the patient can take in order to embrace this new turn of events in relation to their health.

When nurses themselves face less than perfect circumstances at work, they can utilise the same type of psychology to identify the problem, voice concerns and formulate a plan of action. Nursing is a stressful profession in which nurses often find themselves facing great challenges and complex political and administrative barriers to change; however, confronting those challenges with an open mind and a desire for positive change is a step in the right direction.

Nurses can use the nursing process and their own innate wisdom to guide themselves toward individual and collective professional satisfaction. Transform the negative into positive action, and feel the empowerment that such a mindset brings.