Nurses Tell All: Group Interview on How to Be a Boss at Nursing

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At SimpleNursing, we are absolutely thrilled to announce our newest must-watch series: “Nurses Tell All.” In this episode, Nurse Mike sits down with Nurse Tahmina (@Tahmina.RN), Nurse Rachel (@RachelSantana), and Nurse Barbara (@youngnursingeducator) to chat about the one thing they’d change about nursing, how to effectively negotiate your salary, and the right way to address toxic nursing culture. Trust us, you’re gonna want to hear this!

OK, dish. What is the one thing you would change about nursing today?

When it comes to the one thing these ladies would change about nursing, there was no hesitation in naming the problem. “The pay,” Rachel answers immediately. The other two women laugh and nod in agreement. 

Why is low pay such a big problem for nurses?

Because, as Tahmina explains, the pay solves all the other issues. When nurses are paid well, there isn’t usually a shortage of staff, which means that nurses can be fully supported by their colleagues, and that, in turn, leads to less nursing burnout. 

The disparity in pay between, say, a hospital’s CEO and its nurses is enormous, the group adds, and that means the money is there, it’s just not being put towards nurses’ salaries. 

Are things better for nurses living and working in Canada vs. the United States?

Nope, things are worse; it turns out that nurses are paid even less in Canada, and they also don’t have access to as many opportunities as American nurses do, such as travel nursing, which can be an extremely lucrative occupation.

How does low pay impact nurses’ lives?

As Mike points out, nurses are the backbone of any functioning hospital, providing vital care to patients day in and day out. Yet despite their essential role, nurses are often paid relatively low wages in comparison to some of their colleagues (cough doctors cough). This can lead to nurses feeling undervalued, because their hard work is not being adequately or appropriately compensated.

What’s the solution, then?

First, admit that we’re right! When you feel undervalued at work, it impacts your job satisfaction as well as your motivation. That’s why pay is one of the leading factors contributing to the high turnover rate in nursing. 

Second, the solution is simple. Hospitals and other employers need to begin offering nurses more competitive wages – wages that truly reflect their skills and experience. Only then will nurses feel appreciated and valued for the life-saving work they do every day.

Yeah, but how can we support nurses in feeling appreciated and worthy right now?

Don’t fall into the trap that nursing school can sometimes set you up for, Tahmina warns. Nursing school isn’t going to teach you the skills you’ll need to land the job you want as well as the salary you’re worth. “They don’t teach you how to network, they don’t teach you how to use LinkedIn, they don’t teach you how to negotiate, how to stand out, how to optimize your pay,” she says.

So, as a nursing student, what can you do to prepare for things like job interviews?

  • Gain experience 

It is so important for nurses and nursing students to gain experience whenever and wherever they possibly can. Once you have experience, Rachel advises you to go into your job interview with confidence.

  • Confidently describe any hands-on experience during your interview. 

Talk about some of the nursing experiences you’ve had, the types of units you’ve worked on, and the ways in which you’ve cared for your patients. Describe in detail how you take what you learned from your formal nursing education and actually apply it to patient care. 

What about salary negotiation? As a nurse, how can I effectively negotiate my salary? 

  • Name your asking price. 

By then, your interviewers will be able to recognize that you’re a quality nurse, and, “at this point, they need you more than you need them,” Rachel quips, which means it’s time for you to name your desired pay rate. 

  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Rachel always closes with an absolutely stellar final line for a salary negotiation: “and if you guys aren’t willing to give it to me, like, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna look elsewhere, because I know that is what I’m worth.” 

That kind of self-advocacy is exactly what you’re going to need if you plan on becoming a boss at all things nursing-related, the three women agree. Toxic nursing culture can present itself in the workplace or while you’re at nursing school, so you need to be prepared and know how to handle yourself appropriately in challenging professional situations.

Wait–what is “toxic nursing culture”?

Yep, you heard that right. The constant stress of being undervalued and overworked can lead to negative words and actions, while the incredibly high level of competition can foster an environment of cut-throat behavior. Combined, this may result in a toxic nursing culture, which looks like gossip and negativity, high absenteeism and turnover, bullying, distrust and dishonesty, lack of transparency and communication, unreported errors, and so on. Eventually, a toxic nursing culture can lead to a total breakdown of the team mentality, and even result in dissolution of departments. 

Is there anything nurses can do if their workplace has already developed a toxic nursing culture? 

Stay ready – and stay yourself. You may encounter nurses who are part of this toxic culture. These nurses may engage in negative gossip, backstabbing, and other unprofessional behavior. They may also try to pressure you into participating in this behavior. In situations like that, Tahmina says, it’s best to stay true to yourself and define your own experiences. Don’t let other people’s experiences become yours.  

What can nurses do to prevent a toxic nursing culture from developing at their workplace? 

By refusing to participate in toxicity and staying true to who you are, the three women affirm, you can overcome any challenge and build a successful, satisfying career as a nurse. What’s more, they say, you’ll be able to build deep, authentic connections with other nurses over your shared experiences and struggles. “Knowing that we’re all kind of going through this,” Barbara concludes with a smile, “it’s difficult, but we’ll get through it.” 

Thank you so much for joining us today! If you’re interested in learning more about being a new nurse, how to adjust to nursing life, or nursing school study hacks, make sure you check out our blog here. We also encourage you to like, comment, follow, and lightly internet-stalk all of our lovely  guests from today’s show: @Tahmina.RN, @RachelSantana, and, don’t forget, @youngnursingeducator!