Nurses: Smell the Coffee—and Start a Conversation


Please enjoy this guest post by Sue Bock, a previous RNFM Radio guest who will appear again in a follow up interview during the summer of 2014. You can listen to her 2012 interview here.

The smell of coffee hits me when I open the door. I am struck by the efficiency and the comfort of just sitting and enjoying a “cup of joe”. I see a friend, we wave, and she joins me at the table. As you can imagine, we chat for a  while over coffee, and, since we’re both nurses, the conversation eventually drifts to nursing. We’ve experienced many different types of nursing; I still work in ICU, and she now works in the outpatient department.

Having both worked at a particular hospital, we both agree that it was a very angry experience. The people in this facility always seemed to be angry about everything. They took this anger out on each other and the vibe was very toxic. What creates such an environment? How can a group of people survive, be a cohesive team, and be effective in delivering healthcare? They can’t. How does an angry environment evolve and become the mode of operation for not just this facility, but many others? It takes hard work and leadership, albeit leadership in an oh-so-wrong direction. Nursing is stressful enough without adding backbiting, viciousness, and such lack of support from nurse leaders.

At this point, we shake our heads, remarking on how this seems to be so widely prevalent in hospitals, and we wonder aloud why hospitals allow this to happen. Better yet, what causes nurses to allow this to happen? Nurses are leaders, so what makes us lead from such angry places? Do we forget that we have power in numbers? Do we forget that we’re a team no matter what? Sure, the patients are our focus and the sicker they are, the more immediate attention they need. However, it is all the more important that we receive support from each other and stand up for ourselves as a team.

My only conclusions about these important questions are that they are caused by stress, burnout, poor engagement of staff, and lack of self-respect. In a short article in AACN’s “Bold Voices” (March, 2014), the author states:

“As engagement falls, high levels of stress, burnout and absenteeism increase, as does ‘presenteeism,’ whereby staff show up even when they are sick because they think they cannot take the time off.”

This is consistent with the literature I’ve read about productivity in corporate arenas.

It’s important that we nurses step back, looking at the bigger picture so that we can take strong steps toward changing a system that forgets we are human beings as well as a commodity that provides frontline healthcare. Women especially believe they are never enough (as researched by Brene Brown, author of “Daring Greatly”), thus some nurses may live in fear of consequences for doing their jobs well, but not necessarily perfectly.

As a nurse and a human being, what kind of work environment do you want? You have a choice and you have a voice. Find support, and start talking and making changes to create your ideal work environment. Nurses, that is my challenge for you.


Sue Bock, certified coach, CEO,  and President of Courage to Adventure Coaching, is the creator of life changing services for professional women in stressful transitions.  She is a graduate in coaching and leadership from one of the leading coaching schools in the world, The Coaches Training Institute.   Sue’s coaching and leadership services include clients from all over the world.  As an Intensive Care Nurse, she has been coaching her patients for 20 years. She is a published blogger, writer, speaker, and breast cancer thriver. Please find her at