Assessment To The Rescue!
The good old nursing process is a mainstay of nurse decision-making and action, and you can actually use various aspects of the nursing process to alter the course of your situation.
Always remember that the first thing we nurses do in any given circumstance is gather data. When a patient is going south, do we call the doctor before we have vital data to share? Of course not. If we're not sure whether to administer a bolus of prn medication, we first gather information before making a decision; the same thing applies to our careers.
If you're unhappy, begin by amassing data: ask yourself questions; observe your own behavior, and that of your colleagues; uncover exactly what it is that's bugging you and why this job is weighing you down or making you so unhappy. Is it apparent, or is it just a creeping ennui or generalized dissatisfaction?
When you assess, you can act from a place of knowledge and understanding of what's really going on. Sometimes, you've simply outgrown a workplace or position, but there are other factors that contribute to the need to hit the proverbial road and remove yourself from a scary workplace scenario.
Fear Is A Warning
If your workplace scares you, it's time to go, folks. As a nurse, if you fear that you're consistently endangering your license due to poor management, scary nurse-patient ratios, or other issues, your fear should be a clear warning sign that you simply must move on.
Intolerable overtime, overly demanding workloads, or substandard pay are other perfectly legitimate reasons to leave. If your boss is unsupportive and treats you like so much nurse cannon fodder, quit and find a new job; after all, it's been found that approximately 50% of people cite bad managers as a major reason for leaving a job).
Being bullied or harassed on the job is a no-brainer: get out of there as fast as you can, or work like the dickens to have the bully removed from the workplace. Fear of maltreatment at work can cause anxiety, depression, stress-related illness, and all manner of negative sequelae; being bullied or harassed is no laughing matter and may very well be illegal, especially if you belong to a protected class (e.g.: women, individuals with disabilities, etc).
Working conditions related to poor leadership can indeed strike fear in your heart when your license (or your patients) appear to be at risk; if you walk with fear of litigation for reasons beyond your control, you don't belong where you are.
Listen to Your Gut
Many of the warnings about needing to push the ejector seat button in regards to your workplace are based on your assessment, but you also need to trust your gut, your nurse's instinct. Whether the hair on the back of your neck stands on end when you walk onto the unit or you feel sick to your stomach prior to every shift, there are somatic and non-somatic cues that will alert you to the necessity to flee the premises. Don't end up with a corpse of a nursing career that's beyond resuscitation.
In a scary movie, you always know by dint of the music and dramatic tension that the main character shouldn't walk into the creepy house, but she always does, anyway. If the scary house is your workplace, shouldn't you---the main character---turn around and walk away? If your manager gives you the creeps and you feel like you're walking on a knife's edge every day, isn't it time to choose a new path?
You don't want to feel like a ghost of your former self, do you? You don't want to simply be the skeletal remains of the nurse you once were. We all need balance, satisfaction, and happiness in our careers, and when the going gets scary, we need to take inspired action in order to get back on track and back into balance.
The Dance Continues
The nursing career dance is ongoing; you must continually assess your levels of happiness and satisfaction, listen to your fear, trust your gut, and take action when action is needed. Creepy bosses and a ghostly career trajectory are not what you deserve or need. Create that which makes you personally happy and professionally satisfied; reject the haunting of your career as the plot of a bad scary movie that you're going to be rewriting with a much happier ending.
NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of "Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century." He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.