Many nurses know what it’s like to work for a demanding boss. If your manager seems to have unrealistic expectations, it can lead to you feeling stressed and undervalued. Before you consider quitting your job, there are things you can do…
Stretching you or dumping on you?
It can help to take a moment to reflect on why you feel your boss is over-demanding. You might think your workload can’t be done in the time you have, or that a procedure is beyond your ability, but your manager or mentor might think differently.
‘Good mentors challenge you to grow and develop new skills. Ask yourself whether they are being unreasonable – or whether you are feeling anxious and uncomfortable because they are pushing you out of your comfort zone,’ says Ann Griffin-Aaronlahti, Managing Director at Professional Connections nurse staffing agency.
While a certain degree of stretch is healthy for your learning and motivation, problems can arise when demands are unreasonable. For example, because of lack of skills and experience to complete the task, competing priorities, inappropriate timescales, or under-staffing.
You might already be a master at planning your day, but there may still be ways to improve.
‘One of the key ways to manage a heavy workload, especially in a fast-paced acute environment, is to prioritise tasks,’ says Nick Simpson, CEO of nursing agency MSI Group.
‘Nurses often build their shifts around permanent fixtures in their schedule, so that the remaining time can be filled with more flexible tasks. However, you should always be prepared for unexpected tasks to take priority and be able to adapt your schedule to ensure essential duties are not overlooked.’
Taking a step back during a busy shift to re-evaluate what you have achieved so far and what still needs to be done can help. Likewise, effective delegation can be key to managing a heavy workload. ‘Make sure to ask for help or pass appropriate tasks to your colleagues if you find you cannot complete all of your essential duties,’ advises Nick.
And if you still don’t have time to complete essential tasks?
Nick says: ‘Every healthcare professional will be acutely aware that there is a saturation point to their time, and while prioritising and delegation can help to manage a workload you should understand that in some situations you need to say “No” to ensure the standard of patient care is not compromised.’
Meet with your manager
Moaning about your manager will only lead you to feel increasingly negative about the job. Instead, ask for a meeting with them, where you can raise your concerns.
Before you go into the meeting, gather together evidence of your workload. For example, you might list a typical day’s duties, noting down the time for completing each task and any assistance you received from other staff.
Be prepared to talk about the techniques you used to manage your time. Focus on the facts as much as possible, avoid making accusations, and keep a record of the conversation in case the situation does not improve.
‘The meeting doesn’t have to be confrontational. In the first instance, you could approach your manager asking them for guidance on how to manage your workload,’ says Ann.
‘Ask them how they would have prioritised the tasks and be open to adapting your methodology. Enter the meeting with the expectation that you’ll work with your manager to find a solution – whether that’s increasing resources or delegation.’
Raising a concern
However, if a heavy workload is putting patient safety at risk, or you feel that you’re being prevented from providing safe, compassionate care, it’s your duty to raise a concern.
In the first instance, check your employer’s formal policy for raising concerns, which should explain the procedure in full. You should be able to raise a concern either verbally or in writing. You will need to include some background along with a history of your concerns and the reasons why you are concerned. The RCN has some useful guidance on the subject.
Ensure that you keep notes throughout the process for future reference. Your employer has a duty to respond. If they do not, the RCN can help you to escalate your concerns.
Image Copyright: Rene Jausa, Shutterstock.com