Q&A: How Do I Cope With Workplace Drama?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Buddha Image

Here’s a fact: If you’re an average nurse, you work for around one third of your life. And if you take on overtime or extra shifts…it can feel like your entire life takes place at work.

Here’s another fact: Nurses, more than almost any other profession, can get drained emotionally as a result of spending so much time mentally invested in work and the people encountered there.

All that work + all that emotion = potential for stress.

As an expert on meditation, I urge you to consider incorporating this practice into your life to avert the kind of stress that can cause you to have an emotional breakdown in front of your coworkers and patients.

And believe me, meditating doesn’t have to entail sitting cross-legged in the hospital corridor. It can be a simple, quick way to decompress and manage situations that would otherwise be emotionally daunting for us.

Check out these three scenarios that Scrubsmag.com readers posed and how meditation can help you cope.

Q. How do I deal with coworker drama when they keep dragging me into it? I don’t want to be caught in the middle! 
You’re minding your own business, checking on patients and going about your day, when suddenly you’re right in the midst of drama between coworkers. You may have had nothing to do with it, but before you know it, you have been drawn into the fray and it’s the last thing you need.

Instead of adding to it, speak up and suggest that the problem be dealt with after—and outside of—work. After speaking up, step back and find somewhere quiet.

You don’t even have to leave the building to regain a few moments of peace. Sitting in the breakroom for five minutes or finding a quiet hallway are both viable options for brief meditation. Focus on breathing deeply to refresh your mind, and try to put all thoughts of the previous drama out of your head. Think about the next things you have lined up on your schedule, get your bearings and go back to work. The quiet moment to breathe deeply will bring greater focus to your workload.

Q. I tend to get really attached, and when patients die I’m just overcome with grief. How do I get through my day?
Although it’s something no nurse wants to encounter, sadly enough, it does happen. Sometimes, it’s a patient you’ve worked closely with for weeks, or even months, and their passing leaves you overcome with grief. Combined with the sadness and pain of the patient’s family, this situation might seem impossible to deal with at work.

However, even in the midst of one of the most trying situations in your career, meditation can be an effective way to process the pain while on the job. Find a moment to step away and get outside. Fresh air can allow you to clear your head and work through your pain and grief.

As you close your eyes, acknowledge the emotions that you are feeling. Then, try to focus on something that is calming—anything that brings tranquility. Focus on these thoughts and breathe deeply. While you’re not dismissing what happened, you are transferring your thoughts to be able to get through the day until you can really allow yourself to grieve.

Q. Argh! There’s an arrogant new physician and she’s making my life miserable! Sometimes I just want to bite back. How do I stop myself?
As a nurse, you’ve seen it all. That arrogant physician is nothing new…but she sure is frustrating. How can you blow off steam without blowing up at her?

Once again, meditation will prove extremely helpful and beneficial to you in this circumstance. Rather than letting her get the best of you, simply wait for a break in what you’re doing and walk calmly away. Appearing calm and collected will help you feel that way, even when you really aren’t.

If there is no quiet place, find a quiet meditative state within your mind—all it takes is your willpower and whole-hearted effort in order to do so. Allow your breath to enter every inch of your body, and breathe deeply and slowly as you do so. Closing your eyes is a very effective way to remove yourself from the situation momentarily and regain clarity.

Inevitably, it’s your response to life’s stressors that determine your satisfaction with work and with life in general, and you can choose to have a positive response through meditation.

What do you think?  Share your tips on dealing with workplace drama in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.



  1. Irene, Nancy and Lara- I agree with each of you in my own way and, therein, lies part of my answer. Each of us must find our own way of dealing with this because, first and formost, we are comitted to “Doing no harm”. So how do we do no harm and honor our pateints without sacrificing ourselves?
    1. We recognize the polical nature of these encounters and the potential bullying factors and we do it considering the patient’s best interest first. It’s not about blaming it is about recogizing and naming unhelpful behaviors,no matter who it is, even our own behaviors.
    2. We find the appropriate words, time, and environment to share that with the offender whoever it is and we do it calmly, honestly, and without drama. There was an old cop show and the invesitgator used to say “Stick to the facts, just the facts”: and that is still good advise. State the facts, why it is an issue and what your future expectations are and then leave space and time for consideration. Yes you CAN do that if you are reasonable not reactionary;. taking some time to consider it then act and do it in a controled and timely way. You set the stage for future actions with quiet confidence, facts and compassion.
    3. Then you follow through consistently in ways that honors your patient, all co-workers, prinicpals, commitment and nature.
    4. All of this can be done quietly, with compasion and most importantly kept in confidence between you and the other person (as long as there is not a safety concern).
    5. Many of these encounters happen especially between nurses and providers because it has been allowed to happen as part of hierachy of a culture we long ago outgrew. In my experience, there are many factors in ths and the intial conversation opens an opportunity to cross over into each other’s lanes so we can converge in our efforts and work together. Even if we just have to agree to disagree sometimes, it’s okay. We need to see it, own it and address it, let go of it and move forward.

  2. arrogant condescending doctors are not
    Only frustrating, but they deprive the
    Patient of a valuable tool; nursing judgemen
    And nursing instinct. We see the subtle
    Changes in the patients and hear there
    Thoughts and questions. We cannot talk
    To the doctor when he or she is so arragant
    And self absorbed that no communication
    Gets through. It is a real shame

  3. I try very hard to never take things as they are said. I look at the persons current state and past behaviors, before deciding if they really meant to say something negative. I also try to remember that each person has different life experiences and some times that is why they react the way they do or say the things they say. And finally I follow this rule and I share the concept with others any time I get a chance…..each time before I speak I stop, I think to myself, what purpose will these words serve? Will tear the person down, will they build them up, will they hurt them or heal them, are the words simply to unload my anger or let them know they made me mad. Trust me your face and body already told them, and your relief of anger will not likely do anything positive to anyone around you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here