A Secret Way Nurses Retaliate Against Each Other

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Your co-worker leaves you a mess at the end of her shift. So in turn, you leave her a mess the next time she follows you. You’ve just committed a Tit for Tat.

Tit for tat is an English saying from back in the 1500s. It means, “a blow for blow” (negative) or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” (positive). However, the majority of nurses view tit for tat as negative and if you really evaluate the behavior, tit for tat is just a passive aggressive form of nurse retaliation.

tit for tat

Here’s the situation. Your co-worker (who wouldn’t give you the courtesy of spitting on you if you were on fire) is on a lunch break. The unit secretary tells you that radiology called for your co-worker’s patient to come down to the radiology department for his CT Scan. Patients need to be monitored when transported and the secretary suggests YOU transport your co-worker’s patient.

What do you do?

Option 1: Tell the secretary that radiology will have to wait until your co-worker is finished with her lunch. After all, you KNOW she wouldn’t do the same for you.

Option 2: Take the patient down.

How do you decide?

Always ask yourself this question: What is best for the patient?

If we all made decisions based on patients and NOT on the behavior of our co-workers, patients would receive better care AND you’d be role modeling professional practice and influencing others to do the same.
Don’t believe me?

This example was mine, many years ago when I was a newer nurse. I chose option 2 and took the patient down for my co-worker (even though I knew damn well she wouldn’t have done it for me).


Because it was the right thing to do.

Be the type of nurse you would want to want to work with

It didn’t matter that the patient wasn’t mine or that she wouldn’t do the same for me. I did it for the PATIENT. When I returned 30 minutes later with HER patient, I barely got a thank you from her. However, several weeks later, the situation was reversed. I was at lunch and when I returned, I found out that SHE actually took MY patient to radiology.

“Be the type of nurse you would want to work with”

SOMEONE has to start making decisions based on what’s best for patients – not based on whom we are working with that day. And just like my situation, doing the right thing, no matter what, can start a trend – a trend of supporting each other and not subtly retaliating against each other.

I’m an optimist and truly believe we can create nurturing and supportive work environments TODAY. However, I’m a realist too. I don’t expect our environments to change (puppies and flowers) overnight. But I do expect that you will try. Each of us has the power to create a positive work environment for each other and the patients we serve.
Always, always choose option 2.

ReneeThompson_013_HRThanks for reading. I would LOVE to hear from you!
Take care and stay connected.

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4 thoughts on “A Secret Way Nurses Retaliate Against Each Other”

  1. I was really hurt one day when a nurse wanted to argue with me in front of a patient. I thought she had better since then that. I was so upset I myself told her off . Couple of weeks was fine I knew I had to do it right in front of coworkers putting her on the spot . My patients always came first no matter what. It would make me cry sometimes when a patient knock on door and no one even act like they cared this was a mental institution third shift . I’ll never work 3 rd shift again you care and try so hard others just want a paycheck I’ve had a mental health breakdown because of this. I’m just praying I get over it soon not s nice life to live

    1. Renee Thompson

      I’m so sorry for my delay in responding. I’m also so sorry you had this experience. Although I do not condone responding to a nasty coworker by being nasty right back, it is important that you stand up for yourself. It’s also sad that you don’t believe your coworkers are taking good care of your patients. Are you still working on this unit?

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