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Five Ways a Charge Nurse Can Improve the Work Environment

Career News April 28, 2013

There are unique challenges in the life of a charge nurse in a hospital. In this position, you have to be able to manage patients and lead teams of staff members, but you certainly do not have any official authority. There is nothing to worry about when everything is running smoothly, but when you encounter problems with a patient, a family member, a doctor or a co-worker, challenges enter into the situation. It is essential that as a charge nurse, you learn how to handle these situations.

Everyone can be difficult at certain times. When someone is difficult all the time, though, the situation does not make for a good work environment. You cannot change the way people behave, but you can learn techniques for responding to them in a manner that will make a difference. These techniques will also help minimize the changes of a difficult person who continually make the situation even more difficult.

Difficult Personality Types

Dr. Louellen Essex states that there are difficult personality types, and there are four distinct kinds. They are:


The name of this personality comes from the fact that these people “clam up” or stop talking when anyone makes an attempt to engage them in a conversation. They seem to be unresponsive to questions and do not participate in any team activities.


A person who has the sniper personality is exceedingly passive or aggressive. This person tends to be mean and teases co-workers. He/she tries to sabotage all the efforts of others and is especially disrespectful of leaders.

Chronic Complainer

This personality type speaks for itself. Such a person is constantly complaining. He or She blames others for problems and makes accusations. There is always something wrong, and this person feels that they have to be the one to correct them by complaining.


A volcano is always ready to explode. This person intimidates others and is arrogant and domineering. They use aggression to help them achieve their goals, and they personally attack others.

How a Nurse Can Learn to Deal with Difficult People

Learn different strategies

It is impossible to change difficult people because they have established this as their normal way of behaving. Do not take any comments personally because what they say to you shows where they are as a person. They could be ill, exhausted or have emotional issues that they are dealing with. Set boundaries for the ways in which you expect people to deal with you and others. You do not have to put up with any abusive behavior, and you should let these people know that. At the same time, you have to let them know that you do respect them.

Keep the lines of communication open

Quite often medical errors occur because of a lack of or not enough communication. The job of a charge nurse can be compared to that of an air traffic controller because this person is in charge of keeping everything moving in the unit. This is the person everyone goes to for answers.

Communication must be clear and direct as well as being persuasive and assertive. For a charge nurse, communication also means being a terrific listener and negotiator.

Manage conflict effectively

Everyone wants to have a workplace that is free of any conflicts, but this is not always possible in a hospital setting. It is possible to manage conflicts effectively and make them the focus for the team to learn and grow.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations advises that when communication fails among caregivers, it is usually the result of conflicts that have not been resolved. Some ways in which a charge nurse can be an effective manager for conflict resolution include:

•Call a meeting of the individuals involved
•Set ground rules for the meeting that everyone agrees on
•Give each person time to speak on the issue without any interruptions
•Find common ground for the individuals involved in the conflict
•Develop ways of intervention and make notes upon the points to which they agree
•Communicate with all the participants and respect their unique differences

Delegate appropriately

Charge nurses may have difficulty delegating tasks to their team members, but when it is done in an effective manner, delegation can lead to better management. This frees up the professional nurses; so they can handle more complicated issues affecting patients.

Motivate the members of the team

By creating an environment that is inspiring and engaging, the charge nurse will motivate the staff. There are three elements involved in this process:

•Autonomy – everyone wants to be valued
•Mastery – everyone wants to be good at something
•Purpose – everyone wants to be better at what they do

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