Irritating Work Habits You Must Nix (Or Risk Losing Your Job)

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


Many of us have worked with one—a nurse who we feel shouldn’t be kept on staff. She’s the one causing problems on the unit with her attitude or her work—or lack of it.

But it’s not always “the other nurse.” Sometimes…(wait for it)…sometimes it’s us, but we don’t always see it.

Are you guilty of any of the following bad work habits?

1. Coming to work late, shift after shift after shift…
Unless you work on call, you know when you’re supposed to be at work. That’s when your boss expects you to be there and that’s when your colleagues and patients need you to be there. While there may be some professions that have leeway for punctuality, nursing isn’t one of them.

While everybody understands that things happen—cars break down, alarms don’t go off—this should only be occasional, if at all. Nurses who consistently get to work late disrupt the routine of the unit and, after a while, your manager may decide it’s no longer acceptable.

The cure for chronic lateness? Identify what it is that makes you late. Are you constantly oversleeping? Try to develop routines to wake up earlier and get out of bed. Is transportation an issue (bus too late, traffic)? Then you’ll have to leave your home earlier. Is daycare an issue? If that can’t be resolved, maybe you can speak with your nurse manager to make arrangements about when you come in. Whatever it takes, if you value your job, this needs to be nipped in the bud.

2. Always being the contrarian or the voice of dissention
Every unit seems to have one of these: the nurse who will argue if you say the sky is blue, or will say that left is right and that up is really down. Some people revel in this and enjoy the “debates” they cause. This person is often also the one who will disagree with any new ideas or programs, or even worse, will agree to them but then drag his feet, causing problems with implementation.

Not sure if this could be you? Are you respectful when you disagree with someone? Do you hold grudges? Ask yourself how you react to new ideas. Are you receptive? Are you eager to try and learn new things? How do you feel when you have to try something that you’re not 100 percent on board with? If this could be you, try focusing on having a more positive approach to issues rather than just shrugging them off right off the bat.

3. “I meant to get to that!”
Are you organized or do spend more time trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it and how? Being disorganized does more than set you behind in your work. It can affect patient care and it can affect your colleagues, who may not be able to do their work effectively. For example, nursing requires teamwork, which means you have to help each other. If you’re disorganized, then you can’t help the other nurses and they may spend more time than they can afford trying to help you. As for the patients, their care may be compromised because you may forget to do something, delay a treatment or neglect to notice something important.

It’s easy enough for organized people to tell the disorganized ones to just manage their time better, but hints and help are much more appropriate, such as:

  • Identify and prioritize your tasks.
  • Write down all you need to do.
  • Organize all the supplies you need for each task before starting.
  • If you keep forgetting one supply or tool, make a list of your tasks and the supplies and tools you need for each one. Keep them in a notebook with you when you’re at work.
  • Ask for help from a more organized nurse.

4. Sloppiness
Nursing is a field where precision is of the utmost importance. There’s no room for error, let alone sloppiness. Sloppiness in charting could mean points against you in a lawsuit down the road or a misunderstanding when someone goes back in the nurses’ notes to check the patient’s progress. Sloppiness in report may mean that the oncoming nurse may not get the full picture of the patient, missing something vital. Sloppiness in doing procedures, such as changing dressings, could result in infections, which can lead to much more serious outcomes. You see, sloppiness can’t be tolerated.

If you believe you fall into the sloppy spectrum, you have to straighten out. Sloppiness is usually due to one of two things: laziness or disorganization. Both can be fixed, but you have to want to work on them.

5. Constantly checking yr email & phn messages @ work
Work is work and your social life shouldn’t be part of it. In facilities where cell phones are banned, don’t hide one in your pocket and check your messages while in a patient’s room or in a supply room. And when using the facility’s computer, use it for work, not personal stuff unless you have explicit permission to do so.

If you absolutely must check messages and emails during your workday, you’ll have to do so during your break. If you can’t take a break, maybe you can speak with your nurse manager to find some mutually agreeable times to do this.

If you only check your messages out of habit, leave your phone in your locker or in your bag. If you don’t have it with you, you won’t be tempted.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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3 years ago

Good article! Thanks

Adene Maronde
3 years ago

So disgusting when people do not re-stock the items they used, then you have to waste your time getting things before you can start your work. Come on folks…the next person is just as busy as you!

Judith Stoffel
3 years ago

The dirty sink pictured in a break room hits my buttons! As nurses we should all believe infection control leads our actions..That dirty sink indicates sloppy staff in the break room equals sloppy staff at the bedside. It also show a clear lack of concern co-workers. After hanging signs with pleas for to clean after themselves to warnings about tossing dirty mugs and dishes. After a two week of the “toss” policy with cries of where is “my” mug (it was in the dirty sink), the sink was clean 95% of the time. Who says old dogs can’t learn.

Jonathan Shinn
3 years ago

I’m incredibly annoyed by the outgoing shift nurse that wants to leave early so they try to start talking about the patients when my shift hasn’t started yet.

Karen Rivera
4 years ago

Very useful article. I am using this to examine myself. Thanks!

4 years ago

Great article the two things that annoy me most is the staffroom sink even though signs up to say please leave it tidy after use No one seems to do it ?The real hate of mine is mobiles in the pocket even down bras so boss can’t see it I catch them in the treatment room behind pts doors if pt is out in the drug room list goes on I check mine at morn tea lunch and before I leave work my family know to ring direct to work if an emergency .I have seen them walking down the… Read more »