Is your workplace like a bucket of crabs, with nurses biting, fighting, snipping, and clawing their way to nowhere within a tragic pool of toxicity? Let holistic career coach Keith “Nurse Keith” Carlson inspire you to either change that toxic work environment from within, or get the heck out of there while there’s still time! Nurses, you deserve to be happy, valued, and treated with kindness and respect!


In this episode, I delve into a riff on a popular blog post, “Of Crabs and Nurses“, that I posted in April of 2015.

Charles Bukowski once wrote in a poem:

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he’s about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back

Nurses, does that sound like your workplace? Is your environment toxic? Well, get out of there before it’s too late, unless you have the gumption, support, energy, and resources to tackle that toxic environment and change it from within!

Crabs may seem like a collective bunch when they’re stuck in a bucket together, but when you look closely, the only thing they’re really doing is mindlessly clambering over one another in an attempt to save themselves. Crabs don’t think of the good of the whole, and when they’re in that boiling pot of water, you can rest assured that it’s every crab for him- or herself.

For nurses, collectivism is key. We have a collective reputation to uphold for the public, and we cannot practice in isolation. For the most part, nursing is a team sport, and symbiosis and collaboration are part and parcel of who we are. We collaborate with one another, with doctors, with other allied professionals, and with patients and their loved ones. We are collaboration in action.

Crabiness is fine when it’s a passing feeling, but when it becomes endemic to a unit, agency, or group, that spells troubles. Weed out the crabbiness, offer support, and attempt to assuage the pain of others. And if a crabby nurse turns out to be a bully or bad apple, then concerted action is called for to remove him or her from the team—and eject them from the bucket.

Collectivism is our nature, nurses. Own it, and remember that we can lift ourselves out of the boiling water when we work together as a team—or we can get out of there while the going is good!

PS: Mentioned in this podcast:

Renee Thompson, international expert on nurse bullying and lateral violence in nursing. Find her at

Beth Boynton, expert in communication for nurses and healthcare providers. Find her at

The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by James Larson, and social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.

Please consider leaving a review of The Nurse Keith Show over on iTunes; this helps more nurses and healthcare professionals find the show and benefit from the information being shared. Just visit iTunes, click on the iTunes store, search for The Nurse Keith Show under podcasts, and leave a review, and voila. Thanks!

Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!


Nurse Keith photoKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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