How to Deal With a Challenging Work Environment
We’ve talked in the past about signs you need a new job while in school — but what about after school? Once you graduate, your first job will be thrilling, scary, and occasionally overwhelming. For many new nurses, medical assistants, and dental lab technicians (DLTs), the first workplace can also be challenging, to put it lightly. If you come across a challenging work environment, you’re not alone! Many of us have experienced this, and there are many ways to deal with it.
Talk with your peers
At the beginning of your healthcare career, it’s difficult to manage expectations, especially when they conflict with reality. Any work environment will be challenging to some degree … that’s the nature of work. Talking through your frustrations and fears can often normalize them, since there’s a good chance most healthcare professionals have experienced something similar.
Talking with your peers can also help pinpoint the heart of the issue. Do you feel a lack of structural support? Is your manager especially demanding? Do the hours feel unfairly distributed? Before anything else, talk things through with your coworker friends and old classmates, who may be able to assuage your fears, or at least clarify them.
Concentrate on what you love
It’s easy and natural to focus on the challenging, negative aspects of a situation, but everywhere except the most hostile work environments, there are things to appreciate too. Whether it’s a colleague you respect and enjoy, a task you love, or a perk of the work that few of your old classmates have, focus on that versus the difficulties. This shift in perspective won’t make them disappear, but it will mentally diminish them. They won’t loom over your mood so much if you devote a majority of your thoughts to appreciation and gratitude for other aspects of the job.
Stand up for yourself
Working in healthcare, you come across egos a lot. Many people are attracted to the profession because it allows them to help and serve others, but some just like the notoriety and authority. If you feel pressured or intimidated by your manager, a colleague, or a surgeon you work alongside, remember: Your work and role is just as integral to the health and success of your workplace as theirs. Unless they own the practice, you’re both employees and therefore equals in the eyes of HR; if they do own the practice, you remain a crucial part of the system!
As long as you work hard and respectably, you should remain confident in your skills and contributions. If you encounter conversations or patterns that seem to belittle you, stand up for yourself. Lean in. Be kind and respectful, but never diminutive. Even the largest egos will respect that confidence and eventually respect you too.
Remember why you started
Few of us enter the healthcare profession expecting just an easy paycheck. You may find yourself in a position that requires more than you bargained for, but the work remains the same. If you’re a nurse or medical assistant, you still have the privilege of working with and alongside patients, improving lives daily; if you’re a DLT, you’re still honing your craft and talents as you fabricate prosthetics. In any challenging work environment, there are rewards, but there’s also purpose. When you’re feeling low or exasperated, focus on the task at hand and remember: This is why you entered the field.
Related Resource: Nursing Burnout Is Real, and Here’s How to Fight It
Be on guard for hostility
The term “hostile work environment” can be used flippantly, but be cautious before you use it. The government defines the term as “a form of harassment. It is demonstrated by such severe and pervasive conduct that permeates the work environment and interferes with an employee’s ability to perform his or her job.” In this case, there are ways to handle the situation besides quitting or filing a lawsuit, but you should know this is not an environment you should have to tolerate. Take action and keep your options open for other work.
Every worker, especially public servants like many healthcare employees, deserve a good work environment. Yours may be challenging, but as long as it isn’t hostile, there are ways to deal with any frustration and difficulty.
Related Resource: What You Should Know About Mental Health and Nursing
At Ameritech, we work to prepare all of our students for life and work outside the classroom. Clinical and externship experiences are a pivotal part of our curricula so that every future nurse, medical assistant, and dental lab technician will be ready for their first job — and every job after it. To learn more, contact us! We would love to hear from you.