Abrasive/Combative Nurse Made me Cry in Front of My Client :( - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 03-24-2013, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
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I've been a doula for 3 years now and I still don't have a very thick skin when it comes to mean/disrespectful medical staff.


For the record, I've had overwhelmingly positive experiences with doctors/nurses/midwives in my area - a few are former doulas, most are supportive of natural birth, many are very culturally sensitive, and most are supportive or at least neutral about having a doula in the room.  I can hardly think of one nurse or doctor who has been verbally inappropriate with a patient in labor in front of me, which I know is pretty rare.


But on three occasions, a nurse has been so unpleasant that it has made me cry (twice after I got home, once in the room - yuck).  All three times it has been when the doctor/nurse/midwife was stressed out and/or had just made a mistake herself, and I know that this is the reason for the attitude.  Last night the baby's head was out and the nurse and doctor were gone - when the nurse did get into the room, she was clearly freaked out and took it out on the rest of us for the rest of the night.  When she started smashing the mom's breast into the sleeping baby's mouth "because we want them to latch right away" and I asked if he could just rest for a minute, she ripped my head off.


I find that some nurses seem to be very tolerant/compassionate toward the mother/patient/family, but have no patience left over for anyone else, and a doula is an easy target because there are no consequences to yelling or snapping at a doula.


I'm just frustrated with myself because I have the physical and emotional stamina to last for hours at a difficult birth, and I made it through 40 hours of labor with my own kid, but one sarcastic comment from someone I don't even know can reduce me to tears.  :(  Embarrassing and disappointing.


Intellectually, I know that nasty comments are usually about the person making them and not about me or anyone else.  This nurse last night yelled at another nurse too, so it wasn't personal - and I would rather a nurse be abusive to the doula or a colleague than the laboring mother.


I'm just trying to come up with a way to be calm in front of my client and professional but still not be a doormat.  I want to be forgiving and understanding and remind myself that nurses are under a lot of pressure .....  But on the other hand, I work HARD during births and I am very resentful of staff who bite my head off just because they can.


In general it seems like some staff can cope with stress as long as everything is going EXACTLY as planned, but the second there is one thing that challenges their control over the situation (mom gets to the hospital ready to push and can't sit still for a heplock, baby's head comes out when doctor/nurse is out of the room, mom wants to do something nurse doesn't want, doula questions ANYTHING), those stress coping skills go out the window.


Again - this is a minority of staff in my experience.   I'm just worried/sad because I want to be a doula for a long time, but my sensitivity to others' moods is a real issue for me.


Suggestions?  Advice?



key words doula, nurse, stress, conflict

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#2 of 5 Old 03-24-2013, 01:58 PM
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That really sucks, but I don't think you really did anything wrong or could have handled it any better. I cry really easily, and randomly - like at the most awkward moments, and its completely unintentional (and then makes me embarassed, and angry because its not something I can control). Some situations are just tense and emotional, and its ok to be empathetic and frustrated and if a couple of tears can help you deal with it. But I totally understand what you mean about not wanting to be walked on, but it kind of sounds like that particular nurse was just lashing out. So no need to escalate the situation, just ignore them and try to stay focused on the mother since that is the only person you are obligated to. 

Sorry I don't have any great suggestions besides just taking a deep breath, and not engaging with someone who is being counterproductive or lashing out angrily. Nothing wrong with being sensitive or empathetic, I think that can help someone be a great doula. 

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#3 of 5 Old 03-24-2013, 03:13 PM
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That can be really stressful. I've only really had one nurse speak to my in a way that seemed rude, but in retrospect, we both wanted the same thing. She was trying to take care of her patient and I was trying to take care of my client. I tried to say something to her about what my client wanted and she shut me down; she wanted to hear from the mom herself. At the time, it was hard to deal with, but she just wanted to know that it was really what mom wanted.


There are times, though, that nurses are angry or stressed and take it out on people.


This article talks about when nurses are stressed and become a bully:






Doctors, I have to admit, can also be rude. Phrases like, “Why are you calling me?” “We’ll get to it when we get to it,” and “That’s not important” are undermining and disheartening because they shut down doctor-nurse communication. I don’t hear such phrases often at work, but I have heard them, and they make coordinating patient care difficult.

Spending our shifts feeling pulled in an impossible number of directions, day after day after day, can in the end be too much. A lot of nurses find a way to regroup and stay, while some burn out and quit. But a few nurses will, like cornered animals, bare their teeth and fight back.

The problem is that they don’t fight back against the people who put them in the corner. These overwhelmed and angry nurses take their frustration out on the rest of us stuck in the corner with them, or on anyone — like interns — they perceive as being less powerful than they are.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
14yo ds
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#4 of 5 Old 03-25-2013, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for your responses and the article link - it helps to put things in perspective.  I appreciate you all reading my rant!  :)

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#5 of 5 Old 03-26-2013, 08:29 AM
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Heather, the thing happened to me and I wished my doula had stood up for me more!
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