Signs of a Toxic Work Environment: A Nurses Guide to Planning Your Exit

Signs of a Toxic Work Environment: A Nurses Guide to Planning Your Exit

“I feel scared” and “I feel like I am not good enough” are the words of a new graduate nurse whose nurse manager told her to resign. “I sat in my car and cried for 40 minutes,” she says.

Wow. This is not an isolated story of a new graduate nurse. There are many more stories out there like this. Our nursing leaders must ensure that nurses, particularly new nurses, are supported and given the mentorship they need to thrive. It is unfair not to train and support our novice nurses and nurses transitioning to different roles. 

I got in trouble for asking a concerning question.”

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic that a person uses to gain more power and makes a victim question their reality. Gaslighting is the abuse of power and a form of bullying in the workplace.

“They didn’t give me enough orientation and expected me to know everything right off the bat, which is unrealistic.” Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality many new graduate nurses face today because many organizations make financial cuts in the education department. 

This happened to me personally as I experienced a layoff as the director of education due to what they call “restructuring.” Most hospitals function with the minimum number of educators to cover various units, if not only one educator covering the whole hospital. As we know, assigned online learning is not the same quality as practicing hands-on skills and demonstrating competency through validation. 

Creating psychological safety in a work environment is extremely important. New graduate nurses should feel comfortable asking questions and raising safety concerns. Nurses have the right to advocate for themselves and their patients without fearing retaliation. 

Nurses should be aware of their rights and articulate them. The American Nurses Association has listed the Nurses Bill of Rights here.

Although it is easy to say you should advocate for yourself, it can be challenging because you are considering your job security and how to support yourself and your loved ones. Therefore, please know your rights and options to make an informed decision about the next steps. 

Signs of a Toxic Work Environment 

1. Lack of trust among colleagues and or leadership

2. Micromanaging

3. Unprofessional behavior

4. No room for mistakes

5. Blaming type culture/Unrealistic workload

6. No structure or processes in place

7. People feel gaslighted

8. People are disengaged, have low morale, and have high turnover 

9. No support from leadership and no shared decision making

10. Physical symptoms of stress

If you are experiencing any of these, please document what is happening with dates and times. I recommend having a conversation with the person to discuss concerns. However, if you are uncomfortable and fear retaliation and losing your job, I recommend seeking expert advice. No one deserves to feel uncomfortable at work or psychologically, emotionally, or physically distressed by these toxic behaviors. Toxic work environments are simply unacceptable! 

How to Plan Your Exit Strategy

Start looking for a new position ASAP

  • Getting a new position can take 2-6 months, so do not delay it.
  • Use Linkedin and job boards such as Indeed.
  • Network both in person and online for potential opportunities.

Do not apply for every job you see, be strategic 

  • Look at positions that will bring you closer to your career goals.

Select organizations that are in alignment with your values/purpose

  • Read about the mission vision values and visit the place in person to understand the environment.
  • Do your research/Speak to people who are currently working there

Tailor your resume/cover letter to the job description

  •  Use specific keywords in the job description to infuse in your resume.

Ask about the retention rate for employees 

  • High turnover is a red flag that people do not stay.

Pay close attention to your “interview experience”

  • The experience from the application process, planning, and communication during the interview is very telling. Pay attention to body language and the overall vibe of the interview.

Wait until the official offer 

  • Get the offer in writing before you hand in your resignation letter.
  • A standard resignation timeframe is about 2-4 weeks.
  • Get Out! RUN!

Regardless of experience, every nurse must be treated with respect and dignity.

Check out the Minority Nurse Career Center to connect with employers seeking diverse nursing candidates.

“You” Brand: Maximizing Earning Potential and Career Mobility

“You” Brand: Maximizing Earning Potential and Career Mobility

Let’s be honest, it can be hard to get a handle on the latest and greatest strategies for job market success. The economy’s changes have demanded both job seekers and current working professionals to truly exercise more flexibility and diversity than ever before. It’s as tough a market as any out there, and there’s no better time to invest in you.

Here, I mean to suggest that our personal return on investment (ROI) is substantial–provided we approach the task with sensibility, creativity, and a whole lot of perseverance when the going gets tough. No matter the capacity in which we serve (from the trauma ward nursing to non-profit volunteering), nursing is a field that has a wealth of viable options when it comes to how we brand ourselves and our services. Let’s utilize the diversity within our field to expand our professional impact and earning potential. What we offer is more than just a foundation, we’re at the forefront of health care innovation.

Take a moment to write down an overview of your personal and professional skill sets. What do you see? What’s the narrative that emerges from that list? Try to translate the story behind all of your education, training, and experience into a short, captivating statement of professional purpose. Remember that with improved precision in telling our story we can better position ourselves within the market by targeting our brand to the right audience.

What is your specialty? How do you revolutionize and advocate for your profession? What really motivates you to continue when everyone else can’t find the courage to go on?

Highlight your proficiency in the fundamentals, but also be sure to break the mold by showcasing the benefits you can offer your current team or prospective team by emphasizing why you can fulfill the requirements of modern nursing with individuality, competency, and compassion.

When the market doesn’t provide all the answers, how do you make the most of your abilities? Have you done all you can do to present yourself consistently through traditional and new media? Are you making you and your brand accessible to the growing global health market?

Just as we routinely solve complex problems by addressing their separate components, so too can we look at a thriving career as the sum of the parts rather than the whole. Think about your brand as one that goes beyond a single emphasis and encourages your network to view you as an expressive health care provider. Forget the term generalist, we’re in the age of the interdisciplinary specialist. Market yourself in advance of the next big industry shift and you’ve positioned yourself for long-term mobility.

There’s such a great deal of fantastic information and resources available that can help you craft a meaningful career, and for good reason. It’s easy to limit our scope of vision, though. How many times do we find ourselves too narrowly focused on our immediate branding in order to just get that next raise, promotion, or position? Let’s change the short-term mentality and empower sustainable, self-motivated career decisions. For all of the so-called life-changing techniques we can employ in this refinement of our professional development, let me suggest that there’s an incredibly powerful tool at your very disposal right now that can create change in your future.

To get started, get clear about your personal brand identity through the gathering of images, words, and physical objects that capture the essence of your professional vision. Create a space at home where you can display these motivating elements in a way that inspires you to begin thinking critically about your brand. This process should ideally enable you to perform three essential functions:

1. Develop one-year, three-year, and five-year professional growth goals.

2. Account for your own diversity and interests, personally and professionally.

3. Capitalize on understanding the new-market needs of changing health care economies that matter to you and future generations.

As you begin to take charge of the maintenance and evolution of your personal brand, the rewards will start to multiply. Redefining YOU makes a world of difference to us all. By promoting the importance of confident, capable and independent nurses able to navigate the demands of health care today, we do our part in establishing the trends that will shape tomorrow’s industry standards.