In travel healthcare, you must be able to accept criticism.  You are going into a jungle of many different animals, and if you are the meek little domestic tabby nurse, then you are going to be eaten alive.  You are the one making the big bucks, and some will have the expectation that you have to be perfect.  When you aren’t perfect, someone will tell you about it.

When someone approaches you with something that makes them angry enough for them to tell you about it, you first need to ask them to talk to you when the time and place is appropriate.  Invite them to sit down with you at lunch and discuss their problem with you.

After they voice their opinion about why they are upset with you, then ask for specific examples of what exactly you have done to cause the problem.

Actively listen to what they are saying.  Are they putting you down to lift themselves up, or is it something that you could actually improve on?  Are they rambling on just to hear themselves talk, or are they actually making sense?  What is their motive?

Consider the source, also.  There are people who will gripe about anything and everything, and then there are some people who would never complain about anything.  Those gripers usually aren’t hard to spot.  Are they criticizing you only, or everyone else too?

After you have heard what they have to say,  begin to separate fact from fiction and important from trivial.  Is what they are saying going to matter in a week?  Is what they are saying going to matter in a month?  Will it make a change in your nursing career?

Keep all the useful information, and discard all the trivial and useless rambling.  For instance, in the Emergency Department you may not be the fastest nurse, but you have to be the safest.  Take the suggestions of others to improve your speed by improving on your time management skills.   Learn how other nurses improve their time management to make your time management better.

Discard all the negative feelings.  Have you ever worked with a charge nurse who all she ever did was charge?  These people may seem to be bossy and griping all the time about not getting things done the way they think they should be done.  No matter what they say, you have to discard the negative feelings.  You are doing the best job that you can.  As long as you know that you are doing your best, keep in the frame of mind that they are just attempting to guide you and help you remember what you need to do.  If it seems that you are always the one getting yelled at and none of the other staff, then you need to bring that up to your recruiter or nurse manager.

Have a sense of humor with these types of people when appropriate.  When people ask me, “Where have you been?”  My favorite come back is “Down the hall eating Bon-Bons and drinking diet soda.”  Duh!  Where do they really think I have been?  I’m down the hallway with my patients.  Then I inform them of what I have been doing and what I’m fixing to do.

Help others learn to give praise along with criticism.  There have been times when I have asked, “And exactly what have I done right today?”

Push them into giving you a positive comment.  If they can’t give you a positive comment, then you can classify that criticism session a “gripe session” and that person is purely just complaining to have something to do.

As a traveler, you will go into units with definite problems.  If they didn’t have any big problems,  they would have staff that wanted to be there and they wouldn’t need you.  You must be motivated by the criticism and not let them manipulate you with their analysis.  Take what you can to improve yourself and let the other stuff roll off of your back. The biggest difference in accepting criticism as a staff nurse and as a traveler is that you feel like you are out there all by yourself.  It’s you against the world.  If you aren’t strong enough to take it,  you will be miserable.

Written by Epstein LaRue, RN, BS, author of the number one rated nursing, trends, issues, and roles book series, “Highway Hypodermics.” For more information on travel nursing including travel company profiles, travel company evaluations, and hospital evaluations, visit her website at


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