It can be as subtle as an eye roll or as blatant as a shout. As vicious as a threat or as seemingly insignificant as gossip. Nurse bullying, or horizontal violence among nurses, is the ugly side of a noble profession. Depending on the study, between 21%-65% of nurses report being the target of workplace bullying or witnessing a coworker being bullied. Some 70% of nurses who are bullied eventually leave their jobs.
Less than 3 months into her first nursing position at a 65-bed hospital, Rachel got a harsh introduction to the reality of a very real nursing problem:
“Everyone here is very close and I am basically the odd man out. I am being bullied,” she wrote in response to a report on nurse bullying in American Nurse Today. “I can’t walk down a hall without someone whispering or stop talking in mid-sentence when I walk up. I don’t think I’ve given them any reason to think that I deserve this kind of behavior. I haven’t even completed my training and I am already looking for a different job.”
She’s not alone. Some 60% of new RNs leave their first job within 6 months of being bullied, according to the article. Can you blame them?
Maybe they just need to toughen up and realize that’s how the real world works, right?
Maybe you might be a workplace bully and not even realize it.
“During a recent workshop, one woman—I’ll call her Corrine—rolled her eyes, folded her arms across her chest, and said, ‘Nobody on my unit is a bully.’ I noticed her coworkers exchanging furtive glances. Later one of them whispered to me, ‘We have a terrible problem with bullying.’”
Reality is, when you’ve been exposed to a culture of bullying, you may unintentionally pick up unhealthy patterns and behaviors and assume they’re the norm everywhere.
Consider this nurse’s insightful admission:
“[Bullying] is truly an issue in nursing and is the reason why after 5 years I feel so dissatisfied with my job. I have been guilty myself of being part of the gossiping and offered a cold shoulder or two myself. I do not want to ever be that way and am trying to retrain myself, but I see how it is so easy to become a part of this dirty side of nursing and the frustrations that lead to it, such as inequality and favoritisms, fear that a coworker dumps on you or is incompetent, and so on.”
To figure out if you could be committing horizontal violence without even realizing it, Dellasega advises some reflection.
If you answer yes to any of the above, you may be guilty of workplace bullying.
In an attempt to cleanse the workplace of emotional and psychological abuse—which not only hurts professionals but also hinders patient care— the nursing profession is acting to implement zero-tolerance policies against bullying. Statements and standards to abolish bullying and horizontal violence have been issued by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the American Nurses Association and even the Joint Commission. Furthermore, seminars and summits addressing the subject are being offered by nursing groups across the country.
Whether it’s on the playground or on the unit, bullying behavior is becoming less and less accepted in today’s society. Bullying is not helpful. It is not professional. And it is no longer welcome in the nursing profession.
Have you ever dealt with issues of bullying on the job? How can nurses address these problems, and ensure that the workplace remains a friendly, encouraging, and supportive space?