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Unrelenting Frustration That Leads To Anger

by Katherine
(New York City)

My story begins with my employment. I am employed in a neonative intensive care unit with several female nurses at night. I am a PCA (patient care assistant). Because I am not actually a nurse, the nurses I work with seem to have a lack of respect for me and my job title.

They also love to tell me that I am not a nurse and that certain aspects of the job do not pertain to me. When certain literature is being circulated for all to read and/or sign, they often tell me that's for nurses only. If a parents asks me questions, the nurses will quickly tell me that "I am the nurse, I will take care of her questions." I often walk away feeling very low and unimportant.

When I attempt to nurture the babies, I'm told to put them down that my affection is too much. If I try to figure out why a baby is crying too much, or I notice things that could indicate a problem may be ensuing, such as a bloated hard stomach, straining when trying to defecate, marks or blemishes/rashes on the babies face and other extremities, lower extremities that are not supple but tight and hard, they tell me that I am not the nurse so I couldn't possible know.

On two occasions, two preemies ended up having bladder issues and the urine was backing up which made the baby very sick. I notified the night nurse for at least two weeks before someone finally listened to me and had the babies evaluated. In addition to these things, they are very condescending when they speak to me. Initially, I was holding all of this inside, but have now began to have outbursts and anger issues with several of them. I have gone to the head nurse seeking help but she sides with her colleagues.

I feel helpless as I am middle-aged and really do not want to bounce around and start over. I'm thinking about retirement and feel that all that is needed is for everyone to respect one another and be held accountable for her own actions. I often have feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, despair, anger, and very recently thoughts of of how and what I could do to them to get revenge for how they have treated me.

I cannot for the life of of me understand why they can't seem to have a conscience about their behavior and simply stop it. I want to be treated with respect and kindness but that does not seem to be how they see it and I do not feel like I should have to leave my job voluntarily or involuntarily to find a resolution to this horrible dilemma. I've tried to talk about my feelings calmly and respectfully, but I'm not taken seriously. What can I do to have peace in this situation?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Katherine, and thanks for telling your story here. You obviously have a lot of talent and intelligence, and care deeply about your job and the patients you care for. And clearly, you are running head-on into professional jealousy at work.

I assure you that you would not be experiencing this unless they were threatened by you. That's a complement to you, although I know it doesn't feel that way at all. If you were incompetent and ineffective and didn't care, you would be having a different type of problem at work. You're good at what you do, and perhaps better than some of the nurses.

As a health care professional myself, I know for a fact that professional credentials do not guarantee quality of care. You seem to be someone who provides an excellent quality of care.

That said, let me now offer some techniques that you can use to feel better on the job.

Here is what I recommend:

1) Do the anger journaling exercise described on this page. This will help you to process your anger consciously so that it doesn't come through unconsciously and get you in trouble.

2) Use the positive journaling exercise on that same page to shift your focus to what is good about you, your job and the people you work with. I know this is challenging, but I assure you it will help. These nurses are human beings, and some or all of them have some redeeming qualities. Focus on those positive aspects of them in your mind. Do not allow the internal battle to continue--they are just human beings like you and me.

3) Use this two part imagery process to mentally rehearse your interactions with the nurses. This will help you stay calm and focused.

4) When you get ready--if you get ready for this--try being supportive and complementary to them. Give them the respect and appreciation that you want to receive from them. Do this because it is who you are, and because it's what you want. Keep doing it even if it seems to make no difference. Over time, it will help.

These tools will work, Katherine, if you use them.

You are a good person, and you want a good work environment. You can do this. Use these tools consistently, until you get the results you want.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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