Non-Caring Moments for Nurse Leaders

I have been thinking about the Non-Caring Moments that I have experienced as a nurse leader.

There are non-caring moments that I created.

There are non-caring moments created by others.

And there are those created by organizational politics and cultures.


One of the most painful situations was where there was a power gradient in play — nurses vs. a bullying physician.

My quest was to find a path of caring for the nurses.

But the truth is that I never felt I had cared enough for the nurse and his/her peers involved in disruptive behaviors and bullying by physicians.

Of course, I went through the proper steps.  I always addressed the physicians directly and used the corrective reporting mechanisms in place. I sought physician leadership counsel/involvement and always had organizational support, but it never sat well within. The balance of ethics and caring/healing in these situations were too often influenced by the power gradient in play.


My intentions focused on everyone being heard and the nurses’ voices were the most important to me.

The best situations were when the nurses and physicians came together and authentic conversations and heartfelt apologies occurred. Those kinds of resolutions were especially healing for all of us involved.

Since those healthy scenarios were few, the rest of the situations required coaching self-care and self-development to gain some level of resolution and peace.

We all witness situations where we as nurses have to learn to adjust our behaviors for the benefit of the patient’s wellbeing, and learn to surrender to the slower process of disciplinary actions of a disruptive physician.

My coaching stance was to experience how the nurses felt, and

Acknowledge that these are unhealthy situations and relationships.

Then help them identify their healthiest way to be and feel given that these are unhealthy situations.


I took this coaching stance in a Disruptive Behavior class that I routinely taught for a while.   Nurses work world is filled with unhealthy situations. It always felt good to have open conversations about the obvious, the elephants in the room.   And nurses opened up with gusto when truth was being spoken…  There was always connection, laughter and insight.  I wish I had done more of this.

Now I realize that I stopped teaching this course when there were organizational efforts in place and classes on conflict management being offered.

Now I realize that my Disruptive Behaviors classes offered an additional element— nurses sharing their truths with me and them hearing me acknowledge those truths.


I realize more and more that the path to health and healing is to first allow and acknowledge truths being said …   That is Caring. 


2 thoughts on “Non-Caring Moments for Nurse Leaders

  1. Marty says:

    Call it horizontal violenc or bullying or whatever but when you come right down to it it is being uncaring. I have been a nurse for 40 years and I have seen and experienced many uncaring moments with physicians and nurses. I have in recent years also seen it in education. The elephant in the room still remains in the power struggles of nursing education. My hope is the young new educators that I work with every day. They are caring and work more as a team to accomplish our goals. I can only hope future nurses look to these young roles models as caring nurses.

    1. pmcclendon says:

      Thank you for this message. It runs wide and deep in too many aspects in nursing. What a gift when the educators schools or organizations rise from a caring space. There is hope…

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