A pathway to a healthier you

Unsupportive workplaces

It’s the end of your shift. You’ve been run off your feet yet you feel you’ve left so much undone. Ms Jacobs with acute delirium had a fall, Mr Ions’ IV cannula has just tissued and he’s due for his 3pm antibiotics and the family of Mrs Cutchings aren’t happy about the progress of her care.  

Now your manager wants to talk about a medication error that happened last week on your fifth night shift straight. You filled out the Riskman report. Luckily there was no harm but you feel you’re being interrogated and blamed. Your mentor is on days off. You’re feeling overwhelmed, alone and unsupported.  

Blame culture in our workplaces

People inevitably make mistakes – we’re human, says former ICU Nurse Manager Nel.  

“No one goes to work wanting to make a mistake. Nursing has a skewered idea about justice and equality. There’s this culture of wanting to punish. For example medication errors, we focus on staff instead of the staffing at the time or the timing of medication rounds. There are often multifactorial elements when mistakes are made.”  

Benefits of a positive work environment

While most nurses and midwives, and even most students, are prepared for the work being hard, a positive workplace culture can go miles on how you cope even on the most trying of days.  

A positive work environment—caring teammates, a safe space, and a sense of purpose—is important to nurses (McKinsey & Company 2022). A positive workplace environment increases our level of job satisfaction as well as staff retention. 

“It’s difficult to do while you’re under the pressures of work in what can be described as an unsupportive environment,” says Julie, a NT public sector nurse. 

Healthy workplaces – supportive, open and flexible

Attributes of healthy workplaces include authentic leadership, supervisor support, direct communication, and a responsive management. A good workplace is also one that responds to people’s lives, says Nel.  

“Some people can’t work night duty – some people are at the point of their lives where they cannot do it. We don’t all fit the same mould. The majority of our profession are women and we need to be flexible.”  

Strategies for surviving an unsupportive workplace

Often it’s good to talk to someone to get another perspective before you make any hasty decisions, about staying or leaving. If you’re taking increasing sick leave or finding it difficult to muster enthusiasm to get to work or even out of bed, it could be time to reach out. It could even be an indication that you may be experiencing burnout. 

“You can make bad toxic workplaces good or you can also make a good decision to leave somewhere,” says Nel.  

Talk to us

If you’re alone, unsure or need to talk about the situation at work.

Unsupportive work environment: one in which staff feel inadequate emotional and practical support. 

The most important factors keeping them [nurses] in their direct-patient-care roles included doing meaningful work, a positive and engaging work environment, and feeling healthy and safe.
The McKinsey 2021 Future of Work in Nursing Survey

Countries vary in terms of which wellbeing initiatives aqre reported as helping nurses the most. Australia, US, and UK respondents list open lines of communication as an effective wellbeing support initiative. France and Brazil respondents say monitoring signs of nurse distress was effective. McKinsey & Company Frontline Workplace Survey 2022