Last night, I showed up for my overnight shift in the ER having just arrived home from vacation a few hours earlier. I wasn’t necessarily tired, our road trip had provided the perfect excuse for a long nap, but I was, well, feeling a little lazy. As a result of my post-vacation blahs, last evening around 2am the temptation to half-@$$ my job was real. Every time a chart clanked down into the “To-Be-Seen” rack, my shoulders slumped a little lower. Maybe someone else would get that… 

Meanwhile, I was mentally going over my to-do list for the following day, the piles of just-arrived-home-from-vacation laundry looming in my mind. 

I have worked in the same emergency department for nearly four years now. I am established. My coworkers know I have a strong work ethic, that I will show up on time, and put energy into treating my patients appropriately and with a smile (usually). So, given my reputation, letting my motivation wane for one night didn’t seem like a big deal. Once you have become established and ingrained in an institution like I have in the emergency department, it’s normal to let your performance and attitude slide every once in a while, right?

During my ugh, I’m not really in the mood to work kind of night, I shared care of a few patients with one particular nurse who often seems intent on negativity. A seasoned nurse, she has seen it all. She has been treated well, treated poorly, had good bosses and bad, but seems to allow only negative experiences to color her attitude. Her disposition is icy at best. You know the type. Observing her throughout my shift was a wake up call. Allowing apathy and bad attitudes to control my thoughts for one too many nights could have me ending up like her, miserable in my job and saddest of all no longer effective at it.

I’ve seen it time and time again. As nurses and nurse practitioners, at least part of the reason we chose our careers was a passion for helping others. We wanted to make a difference. Interacting with patients and helping them with health problems was an attractive proposal. Then, we began working. Little by little, negative attitudes of a few coworkers start to seep into our career mentality. The red-tape of the healthcare system weighs us down. We begin to realize that changing health behaviors is harder than we thought, especially when the healthcare system is not set up to help us be successful. So, we become disillusioned, losing sight of our passion and goals.

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But, not everyone falls victim to bad attitudes, frustration, and apathy. Some nurses and nurse practitioners are able to keep the pep in their step, to practice with enthusiasm and to shake the negativity of those few coworkers who poison the attitudes of those around them. This is a conscious choice. When you notice these behaviors, snap out of it. Bad attitudes are a slippery slope. Recognizing the slide towards becoming a negative person on-the-job is essential. The sooner you realign your disposition, the easier it will be to stop this dangerous mid-career attitude shift. 

As my night shift wore on, I pulled myself together. I want to be a leader in my workplace, a benchmark for quality. I won’t let my passion and positivity be slowly worn away over years of practice. It will take intention, but I want to be the best when it comes to my job.

Do you notice attitude shifts in nurses and NPs in your workplace?


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1 thought on “Don’t Fall Victim to a Mid-Career Attitude Shift”

  1. Do you think that nurse suffers from compassion fatigue versus a conscious decision to be negative? I think compassion fatigue is a growing concern among healthcare providers that is often overlooked or mislabeled.

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