How Newbie RNs Can Avoid Hospital Politics

Travel Nursing Newbies

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

New nurses have a lot adjustments to make on the job—including navigating the political nuances that come with working at a hospital or medical center. Staying involved and engaged in the facility’s culture is key, but it’s also important to avoid the negative aspects of hospital politics.

Although nursing politics cannot be avoided altogether, there are a few key things that newbie nurses can do to avoid conflict and promote a harmonious work environment. 

Concentrate on the work first 

It’s critical that new grad nurses gain experience before getting involved in formal nursing politics, such as taking a position on a hospital committee or getting involved in legislative agendas. Focusing on your career and skill set will provide a strong foundation for future involvement. 

But nursing politics can also span beyond the official committees and organizational charts to include complex relationships, competition among peers and confrontations. 

New nurses who maintain professionalism and keep a sharp eye on their patients and their own career will find that the petty politics will fly by the wayside. 

Know the consequences

While the vast majority of nurses are well-meaning and team-oriented, new nurses will find out that a few of their colleagues seem more interested in power plays than patient care. And their political games can affect everyone.

A 2013 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information looked at the effects of perceived hospital politics on nurses' behavioral intentions.

These perceptions of workplace politics led to:

  • A decline in nurses’ job satisfaction, commitment and work performance
  • An increase in nurse absenteeism, negligent behavior and intention to leave.

The study authors’ suggest that nursing management should implement evidence-based best practices centered on the creation of an enabling environment for nurses to participate in decision-making.

Stop the bullying

Countless studies and surveys have shown that nurse bullying—which can range from subtle incivility to outright verbal assaults, harassment and worse—is always done to serve the self-interests of the perpetrators. 

In order to help minimize nurse bullying in day-to-day interactions, new nurses should speak up if they witness an episode, avoid gossip, model non-bullying behavior in their own interactions, and work to promote an atmosphere of collaboration and kindness. 

RELATED: Nurse Incivility and Bullying: How to Know the Difference

Take the high road

Building trust-based relationships with your colleagues—regardless of age, title and/or experience—is an important part of avoiding hospital politics. 

Remember that you always have a choice in how you react to someone. If someone snaps at you, for instance, don’t snap back. Take a few deep breaths and respond in a cool, constructive manner. Remember that your fellow nurses can be under a great deal of stress, so offer them grace when possible. 

Making an effort to get along with others will help mitigate stressful situations and create a strong foundation for the unit and the team.

Nursing politics and hurt feelings can’t be avoided completely, but you can do your part to foster a healthy and productive environment where everyone focuses on what matters most—the patients.

Become a travel nurse 

If you are truly looking to steer clear of nursing politics, a career as a travel nurse may be a welcome change over permanent staff positions. Travel nurses can often avoid hospital politics more than most since they are not entrenched in one facility, and don’t stay long enough to get dragged into any organizational issues (assignments usually range from 4-13 weeks).

Travel nurses are hired to fill vacancies and support other staffing needs, and will often have more time to spend with patients. 

New nurses only need a few months of clinical experience in a hospital setting to become travel nurses, though some specialties will require more than others. 

Apply with to start working with a recruiter!


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