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General Suggestions for Nurses Having Problems in the Workplace

While the Truth About Nursing would like to help nurses with individual workplace problems, our limited staffing simply does not allow us to do that. Our focus is on promoting the nursing profession generally, rather than advocating for nurses one-by-one. However, we do have some suggestions that may be of use if you have workplace difficulties.

In general, nurses--like everyone else--are stronger when they act collectively.

Below are some general suggestions. They are geared mainly toward US nurses, but if you know of international or any other additions to this page that would be helpful, please send them to us at so we can provide the best guidance to nurses in need.

1. If you are having serious workplace problems, do your best to learn everything you can about the problem. Is what is happening affecting patient care? Does your workplace have policies about what is happening, such as rules about how workers must treat each other? Is what is happening consistent with those rules? Are there mechanisms in the workplace to address the problem? Does your state have laws that may be relevant, such as laws about nurse staffing, overtime, whistleblower protection, discrimination, or harassment? Are there ethical or licensing issues involved, whether as to nursing or other professions? Many states and institutions make this kind of information available online.

2. Once you feel you understand what is happening and as much as you can about the rules, the obvious first step would be to raise the issue through the administrative procedures currently in place at your institution, including nursing management and human resources.

3. If you believe internal procedures are not effectively addressing your issues, or you have other concerns about using those procedures, and there is a nursing union in your workplace, ask the union for help. Unions are very familiar with workplace rights, and unions have been among the most aggressive advocates of better working conditions for nurses and improved patient care.

4. Contact your state nurses' association, which can be a valuable resource for specific local information on resolving workplace problems. Even if you are not a member, the association might have some information about people who can help you. (U.S. state and territorial American Nurses Association affiliates; independent California, Maine and Massachusetts nurses associations.) Contact the Center for American Nurses, an organization affiliated with the American Nurses Association that focuses on workplace advocacy. International nurses--if you know of comparable organizations that can help, please send us that information so we can post it here.

5. If you believe there is a malpractice issue, contact your malpractice insurance carrier for help.

6. If you believe it may be helpful to speak with an attorney, contact your state bar association for referrals. They should be able to direct you to a lawyer who can advise you as to your rights. Depending on the problem, you may be directed to an employment lawyer who is expert in advising employees. You might also seek out the local legal aid society for free legal help. Your state bar association should be able to direct you to legal aid societies in your area. International nurses, click here to find resources in your country. Some law schools staff legal aid clinics that can help you free of charge. Search for law schools close to you.

7. Try contacting The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA) for guidance. TAANA has chapters in many states.

8. Contact the National Labor Relations Board to ask for guidance and a possible investigation.

9. If you have a disability that is causing you workplace difficulty, please go the Exceptional Nurse website to learn more about your options

10. If you are having great financial difficulty, you can contact Nurses House to see if they can help.

Also 1) read our FAQ's below and 2) learn how you can strengthen nursing at your institution

Our FAQ's section may contain helpful information about nursing issues generally, including the effects of current workplace problems on patient care and nurses themselves, and how some nurses have responded. We have placed a few FAQ's below that may concern you, but please see our entire section.

What is nursing? answer...

What is the nursing shortage and why does it exist? answer...

Are you sure nurses are autonomous? Based on what I've seen, it sure looks like physicians are calling the shots. answer...

What happens to patients when nurses are short-staffed? answer...

Is nursing a subspecialty of medicine? answer...

Should we refer to physician care plans as "orders?" answer...

Strengthen nursing (and by extension, patient care) at your workplace by:

  • Considering unionizing. There is nothing unprofessional about union activity; many teachers, scientists and attorneys belong to unions. If you believe that nursing and patient care in your workplace might benefit, consider contacting a union active in your state, or SEIU, the National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, or the California, Maine and Massachusetts nurses associations for help. (If you know of other nursing unions, please suggest additions.)
  • Consider joining professional nursing organizations, such as your state nursing association, the American Nurses Association, and organizations specific to your practice area. These organizations can do a variety of things to strengthen nursing practice, including amplifying nurses' voices in dealing with the government and others.
  • Consider working for magnet status at your institution, and working to strengthen the Magnet Credentialing program to better support nursing. Some have expressed concerns about whether magnet status actually has a positive impact on member facilities. Consider emailing the American Nurses Credentialing Center and asking them to consider having the Magnet program:
    • include strong specific RN:patient ratios;
    • increase nursing educational requirements for the chief nursing officer;
    • provide clinical nurse specialists for each floor on each shift;
    • increase support for workplace nursing libraries, nursing research and continuing education;
    • assure that management entities, including boards of directors, have adequate nursing representation;
    • assure that at least one public relations professional in each institution is solely dedicated to promoting and representing nurses.
  • Consider implementing shared governance at your institution (read how it works);
  • Consider increasing awareness of key nursing issues including safe staffing levels;
  • Consider nurturing the next generation of nurses;
  • Consider telling the world what nurses really do to save lives and improve outcomes. Tell your spouse, your children, your parents, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your local media, and your elected representatives.
  • Other ideas? Please email us your suggestions