Anger: The Mismanaged Emotion

Sandra P. Thomas


Dermatology Nursing. 2003;15(4) 

In This Article

Nursing Implications

Findings of these studies about anger of men and women in daily life have implications for nurses' ability to interact with angry individuals in health care settings. The modern hospital is a particularly volatile environment. In studies by this research team, both female and male nurses depicted the workplace as a virtual war zone, using numerous military metaphors: "I become very fatigued by having to do all these battles;" "I was getting flak;" "We feel sabotaged." Adversarial relationships were particularly evident between nurses "in the trenches" and their supervisors, who were perceived to have "deserted the troops" (Brooks, Thomas, & Droppleman, 1996; Smith, Droppleman, & Thomas, 1996). Time pressures, heavy work volume, sensory overload, and the anxiety of dealing with life-threatening crises combine to produce situations in which anger of both staff and patients is readily evoked.

Anger can be a healthy response by a patient whose needs are ignored or a nurse whose assignment is grossly inequitable. More often, however, anger in the health care setting is directed toward inappropriate targets and/or expressed too intensely (as in the common example of a physician yelling in the hallway at a nurse because a lab report is not on a chart). Nurses must be prepared to deal with the anger of patients, family members, physicians, and colleagues -- as well as their own anger. Paralleling the findings in the general population, nurses who were interviewed felt bad about the ways they handled their anger, whether they tended to "stuff" it or to "vent" it (Thomas, 1998).


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