Exposing the Consequences
of Mismanaged Anger
Nurses don’t feel good about the ways they handle their anger. And I’m concerned too. While anger in itself is neither good nor bad—and it can be used to accomplish good things—much of it is hidden or mismanaged. Although some nurses told our research team that they screamed or discharged anger in motor activity—by throwing charts, hitting doors with fists, or stalking off from an offender—they seldom felt relief from such actions. Instead, they were ashamed of losing control. More commonly, angry feelings were stifled or somatized, held inside the body until the nurse had a splitting headache or upset stomach. The consequences of mismanaged anger include fatigue, depression, addictions, even hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and I will cite plenty of research evidence shortly. What I am saying is that anger can make you sick! Think of the last time you “swallowed” your anger at work and it sat there all day like a greasy doughnut, heavy in your stomach. The anger might have caused you to have heartburn: Anger does “hurt around the heart,” as one of our research subjects told us (Thomas, Smucker, & Droppleman, 1998). And if anger becomes chronic, it might be propelling you along the path to burnout, that unhappy state when you feel like saying “Take this job and shove it!” Some of the responses to the AJN Patient Care Survey (Shindul-Rothschild et al., 1996, pp. 30–31) suggest that we have a national epidemic of this syndrome:
I work at a “prestigious” medical center. I am unable to give good care to my patients.
The turnover rate increases but nothing is done. It’s making me want to leave nursing!
Nursing, as I first worked in it, no longer exists. It’s become a business, with profit
the bottom line and patient care a very low priority. I will have nursing soon and
never look back.