Negative Nurse Syndrome and Your Nursing Career | The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 160

On May 21st, 2018, I published a blog post titled, “Build a Firewall Against Negative Nurse Syndrome“. Episode 160 of The Nurse Keith Show builds and expands upon that original post.

Extinguish the fire

Photo by Piotr Chrobot on

Here are a few excerpts from that original post to whet your appetite:

As nurses, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly of life, society, and humanity. In the course of our nursing careers, we can encounter belligerent patients, impatient families, nurse bullies, arrogant surgeons, uncaring managers, and generally miserable nurse peers. So how do we stay positive amidst such negativity? How do we protect ourselves against those who would prefer to drag us down with them — including other nurses?

Negative Nurse Syndrome (NNS) is a widespread condition that infects a large number of nurses and nursing students. No matter how popular and potentially satisfying a nursing career may seem, there’s plenty of stress, negativity, moaning, groaning, and dissatisfaction to go around. In fact, even the most earnest and well-meaning new grad can quickly find herself face to face with her own growing sense of jadedness if she’s not careful to guard against it. After all, if you’re surrounded by a bunch of Negative Nancys and Davey Downers, their pessimism will find you by nurse osmosis.

It only takes one negative person who complains and grumbles out loud to cast a pall over the rest of the workplace. Have you ever experienced how one person’s drama or trauma can suck the air right out of a room? This is what can happen in a hospital unit, home health agency, or other workplace where nurses congregate and chronic complainers go unchallenged.

Your job is to keep a firewall between yourself and those who would drag you down, and this is a survival strategy for those of us who are highly susceptible to the negativity of others.

In the end, remember that you poured your blood, sweat, tears, time, and money into becoming a nurse, and you need to ask yourself how much of your original dream you’re actually willing to sacrifice on the altar of negativity. This is a question of mindset and of your ability and willingness to say, “To hell with the negativity, I’m going to focus on why I chose this profession in the first place”. Talking back to the negativity with positive statements and beliefs is a strong antidote.

Nurse, it’s ultimately your decision. Negative Nurse Syndrome can be a tough thing to overcome, but overcome it you must. Burnout and unhappiness are just two of the symptoms that you risk exhibiting if you allow Negative Nurse Syndrome to take hold, so fight the good fight in your own psyche and push back against the voices of dread.

Build your firewall, inoculate yourself against negativity, and recommit to the career you envisioned. The journey is of your own making, and the choice is always yours.

Here’s a link to the article about how humans are wired for negativity.

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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCIn case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses.

From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

As of May of 2018, Keith is the host of Mastering Nursing, an interview-style podcast showcasing inspiring, forward-thinking nurse thought leaders and innovators.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at

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