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The effects of toxic work environments on nurses health, and how to improve it

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

The effects of toxic work environments on nurse's

health, and how to improve it

Nurses are guardian angels in disguise but there are days when even they need help. Nursing

is a field that offers you various opportunities and allows you to select a field of expertise where

you can best serve your community. But, all of this can sometimes feel like it comes with

drawbacks, you work long hours, deal with a variety of patients, and stay on your feet for long

stretches of time.

Nursing is a rewarding career when you work in the right environment. But, when the

environment is toxic it can be a different story. Getting through the day might feel impossible.

You come back home feeling frustrated, helpless, and exhausted.

What does a toxic work environment look like?

Sometimes if you work a toxic work environment don’t might not realise that your workplace is

toxic. There might be a culture of “that’s just how things work here”, but this is completely


Unveiling the Hidden Toll: The Impact of Toxic Work Environments on Nurses' Physical and Mental Health

Every workplace functions in a certain way and there are some clear signs to help you identify if

your workplace is toxic or not.

1. A visible lack of communication

2. Employees are divided into groups or ‘cliques’

3. Lack of motivation

4. Feeling burnt out

5. Microaggression between coworkers

6. Poor morale and high staff turnover

7. Distrust in leader

8. Growth is discouraged

Observing any of these signs can highlight the kind of environment your workplace is projecting.

Exposing yourself for long periods of time to such a workplace environment can drain your

mental health in the long run and affect the quality of healthcare being provided to the patients.

The Hidden Costs: Understanding the Detrimental Effects of Toxic Work Environments on Nurses' Physical and Mental Health

Being constantly exposing to toxic environments could lead to mental and physical symptoms

which can affect you in the long run. This isn’t the only way that a toxic environment can affect


Look out for all these signs:

1. Upset stomach

2. Fatigue

3. Insomnia or nightmares

4. Depression

5. Muscle ache

6. Headache

7. Lack of appetite

8. Irritability

Being exposed to stressful situations frequently can result in severe issues. It is important to

focus on your health. Self-care is necessary, even for a nurse! It is alright to put yourself first.

The repercussions of working in a toxic environment extend far beyond the immediate difficulties and irritations. The effects of prolonged exposure to unhealthy work environments on nurses' physical and mental health have been demonstrated by research. The results may not be immediately apparent but can accrue over time and hurt personal and professional performance.

The appearance of various physical and mental symptoms is one of the leading indicators of a toxic work environment. These symptoms should not be disregarded, as they may indicate something is wrong. In unhealthy work environments, nurses may experience upset stomachs, persistent fatigue, sleep disturbances such as insomnia or nightmares, feelings of despondency, muscle aches, headaches, appetite loss, and increased irritability. These symptoms can develop progressively and worsen, impacting their personal and professional lives.

Recognizing that these symptoms are neither normal nor an unavoidable aspect of nursing is crucial. They are warning signs that the work environment negatively impacts one's health. Although it may be tempting to disregard these symptoms as transient or insignificant, prioritizing self-care and seeking support is essential. Remember that, as a nurse, you play a crucial role in caring for others, but it is equally necessary to take care of yourself.

Self-care should not be considered a luxury or an act of selfishness. It is a fundamental requirement for maintaining your health and providing quality patient treatment. Setting boundaries, seeking stress-relieving activities, engaging in pursuits, practising mindfulness or meditation, and taking time off to recharge are all components of prioritizing self-care. Investing in your health makes you better able to navigate a toxic work environment and maintain your resilience and compassion as a nurse.

Confronting the effects of a toxic work environment may feel overwhelming, but there is hope for positive change. Identifying the symptoms and signs is the initial stage in taking action. Discuss your experiences with supportive colleagues, mentors, or professional counselling resources to investigate coping strategies. Consider advocating for healthier work environments within your organization, such as encouraging open communication, nurturing a culture of support and respect, and emphasizing employee health.

Remember that you are not alone in confronting the difficulties of a toxic workplace. By recognizing the hidden costs and prioritizing your well-being, you can navigate these challenges with resilience and optimism for a healthier, more rewarding nursing career. Your health is essential, and you can better deliver compassionate care by taking care of yourself.

Nurturing the Caregivers: Prioritizing Self-Care and Well-Being in the Nursing Profession

In order to make a toxic environment healthier, small, positive changes need to start from the

bottom up. They say a building is only as strong as its foundation.

How can we achieve change?

1. Improve communication: Always make sure that your requirements are communicated

clearly. Loss of information leads to tasks being done improperly.

2. Establish values: The institutions' values must be clear, concise, and simple to follow.

3. Feedback: A good amount of feedback allows you to gather information regarding the

working environment and where improvements can be made.

4. Safety: It is essential to make sure that a workplace provides a sense of comfort and

security since a large amount of time is spent there by the employees.

Many times the answer is focusing on yourself rather than your workplace. Focus on your own

achievements and self-worth rather than the achievements of your workplace because a toxic

environment will not put your growth and health before themselves. As a nurse, only by taking

care of yourself can you take care of someone else.

Should a toxic environment begin to overwhelm you, take a step back and reassess your




  1. Have you ever worked in a toxic environment?

  2. How did it affect your physical and mental health?

  3. Do you think were you work now is toxic? What could you do to promote positive

  4. change?

  5. Imagine an ideal work environment where nurses' well-being and growth are prioritized. What key elements or initiatives would you implement to create that positive environment?

  6. Are there any moments or instances when you felt empowered to bring about positive change within your work environment, even in small ways? How did those experiences influence your mindset and actions?

Remember that self-reflection is an effective instrument for personal development and empowerment. Take the time to investigate these questions with sincerity and reflection, and allow them to guide you towards a deeper understanding of yourself and your nursing desires.



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