Mean Nurses

Jun 28, 2020 | Aussie Nurse

I remember once I was early to work, so i went to the break room where I saw another nurse and we started to chat, we were having a laugh about our weekend over a pleasant coffee, when a senior nurse walked into the room ….

The vibe just changed instantly and I knew I was in trouble for my joyful laughter, it was like a grey cloud followed that person and I just thought- ‘its gonna be one of these days’.

This nurse was not picking me out exclusively to ‘have a go’ but was harsh to others as well, especially when that person was in a situation where they were stressed, emotions overcame them. The team all knew when that person was working  and we all had to adjust according to how happy or sad that person was.

Nursing as a whole can be testing especially with workloads, irregular shifts, patients/relatives aggression and on top of that dealing with other co-workers behaviours, all of these affect the whole environment with a negative vibe at work.

Hearing the term “Nurses eat their young” is well known and still true especially for newer nurses. When I was a young nurse I remember experiencing unacceptable behaviours which was confusing at the time, especially when I never did anything to trigger such responses- I only knew what I knew.


Such unacceptable behaviours in a person can become ingrained over time, its kind of tolerated by everyone and unfortunately is normalised. To report such behaviour is difficult as speaking up has a potential of a person being ridiculed, shamed or even retaliated against.

Of course, a lot happens in any work day, there is so much that we brush off and amazingly not take personally but for these days that are high-pressured and highly stressed its more about getting through the day and sometimes at the cost of ignoring our feelings. Of course sometimes its easier to keep our heads down and just work to get through the day but with feelings and emotions building up over time they may lead to negative consequences.

But when the disruptive behaviour of a mean nurse continues, it does damage not just to the individual but to the cohesion of the whole team, as well it effects morale at work and in the long term may create a ‘toxic’ culture.

There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict. Walk away from these people. The battle they’re are fighting isn’t with you, it’s with themselves.”

– Rashida Rowe

The example at the start of this blog was due to that one person who was a ‘bad apple’, like buying a whole bag of apples it takes only that one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch. To keep the fruit analogy going, as a nurse I see myself as a pineapple, sometimes prickly on the outside and definitely a softie on the inside.

The problem may start with one person behaving badly and over time the people who work around disruptive individuals may begin to behave differently, possibly causing more severe micro-aggression, horizontal violence, bullying or even harassment to occur.


Up to 50% of Australian workers have experienced bullying, with workplace bullying estimated to cost our economy $6-$36 billion annually (Black dog institute, 2020).


If the affects of poor relationships are consistent or become worse, there may be a need to escalate matters by reaching out for help as the affects on an individual may lead to stress, burn out or even compassion fatigue.

Having a supportive workplace with positive interactions can lead to a more collaborative team that promotes trust, respect and confidence. By positively feeling valued and improving work place relationships it increases psychological well-being.

In the past I have been fortunate to have worked with positive work colleagues who have inspired and motivated me, I have seen these nurses as role models. They have helped me to remove my barriers to growth and allowed me to develop further in nursing, its comforting knowing I can reach out to them at any time and beyond these nurses that are just mean.



Establishing positive and meaningful relationships with co-workers allows for greater satisfaction in the environments we work in.

Within nursing and working with many different people we may encounter relationships at work that may be negative or difficult at times, as we all know in any group there is always ‘one bad apple’ and looking beyond them there are many more nurses who are great positive influences.

Support –

(Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash )


Thanks for reading – Aussie Nurse

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