On the outside, nursing appears to be a profession built on caring and compassion. And although, in a lot of ways, that’s true…there are still some “nurses that eat their young.”
Bullying isn’t just annoying, it’s a form of psychological abuse and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t just fade away after high school. Bullying can evolve into adulthood and take on new forms…even for nurses. Unfortunately, nurses are not immune to the badgering in nursing school and even in the workplace. What is even more shocking is the lack of acknowledgement of the tremendously daunting bullying that takes place in professional healthcare environments daily. It is unclear how many cases of nurses and bullying are happening. However, because it is so common, victims do not speak up about their abuse.
Nurses can encounter bullying in ways that range from extreme yelling to more passive and insidious mistreatment. Gossiping and exclusion can cause equally or greater harm than criticizing work performance, in some cases. Usually, this comes from perceived imbalances in power. It can occur from nurses who feel they are superior to newer nurses and making them feel inadequate and vice versa; newer nurses feeling more technologically capable their veteran-nurses. Or, it can come from higher-ups causing fear with in the workplace. Relational aggression is the term for these types of psychological abuse that occur in adult situations.
Vertical Bullying vs. Horizontal Bullying
- Horizontal bullying is when nurses bully their colleagues.
- Vertical bullying is when nurses are bullied by a manager, under their supervision.
Negative Effects of Bullying on Nurses
- Increased workplace turnover when nurses feel forced to quit
- Lowered job satisfaction
- Decreased self-esteem
- Feelings of isolation at work
- Threats to patient safety
What Causes Relational Aggression towards Nurses?
- Triggers– Certain things can throw a person over the edge and cause them to lash out on a co-worker. Sometimes, a new hire will cause stress that results in bullying for example. Or, someone feeling that they missed out on winning a certain achievement recognition over another will cause bullying.
- Superiority complexes– Have you ever encountered a “SUPER NURSE” who just seems to THINK they are the best at everything? Well, these elitist co-workers can cause workplace frictions through many actions, even ones as minor as rude glances or the way they fold their arms. The “Super nurse” is not afraid to criticize another nurse and although they may feel like their comments are helping, they can be hurtful.
- Resentment- If a nurse holds a personal vendetta against a co-worker, their inability to let the past go can transgress into bullying.
- Backstabbing- Nurses that betray colleagues can cause workplace problems.
- Envy- Certain personalities make a person jealous over another person. If this transpires in the workplace, it can ultimately end up in negative behavior.
- Gossip, rumors, put-downs- Any form of negative social behavior can account for a plethora of trouble for nurses.
How Nurses Fight Bullying:
Bullying for nurses is a problem that can cause up to 70 percent of admittedly abused employees to quit their jobs. And, this can in turn cause unhealthy environments for the rest of the staff, regardless of their involvement.
Zero-tolerance policies need to be put in place in hospitals and medical facilities to shield against potential acts of bullying. Surveys taken by staff, under strict anonymity, should also be conducted to ensure that everyone feels that they are working in emotionally stable conditions. Promoting positive treatment at work and encouraging an end to disrespect is the only sensible approach in ending nurse bullying for good.
Additionally, nurses who feel that they are being bullied should reach out for support. A 2007 survey showed that over half of nurses reported being put-down and/or threatened by a fellow nurse on staff; it is not uncommon to get treated badly by a co-worker.
In the stressful day-to-day routine, it’s easy for many to sweep these kinds of problems under the rug. Also, if you are a nurse that knows a colleague is being psychologically abused by someone in the workplace, advocate for them.
Together we can put take nurse bullying by the horns…and stop it for good!