How Do I Deal With Nurse Bullies?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine

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Any nurse who has been rejected by a nurse clique or has been the victim of another nurse’s malicious gossip wonders, “Weren’t we all supposed to grow out of this?”

Unfortunately, no.

According to one study, 38 percent of working adults have experienced bullying at work and 42 percent have witnessed bullying behavior. And while most workplace bullies are men, women can be bullies, too: 40 percent of all workplace bullies are female, according to the “Workplace Bullying Institute.”

What exactly is workplace bullying? For the most part, you can rely on the old adage “I know it when I see it.” If you prefer something more concrete, try this definition: “any vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that result in a harmful work environment for the employee” (Canada Safety Council, 2005).

If a fellow nurse is bullying you, refuse to stoop to her level. Don’t answer her rude or unfounded allegations; she’s just trying to get a rise out of you, and if you respond, she wins. Instead, hold your head high and continue to do your job as competently and professionally as ever. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should simply ignore the bully. If you can, confront the bully in a professional manner. Don’t scream, yell or cry; simply call her on her behavior and tell her you will not tolerate it anymore.

Start a file and document your interactions with the nurse bully. You may need this material later to provide evidence of hostility over time. Keep your statements as objective as possible: who, what, where and when. Include quotes whenever possible.

Report the bullying behavior to your nurse manager as well. She needs to know what’s going on, and ideally will take steps to stop the behavior. If not, you may need to progress up the chain of command.

It’s also important to seek support. Talk to a trusted coworker, friend or spouse, and find a way to release some of the stress you may feel as a result of the bullying. Whatever you do, don’t let the bully get the best of you. You’re better than that.

Have you ever been bullied by another nurse? How did you handle it?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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Claudette Gordon
4 years ago

It’s amazing, l an feeling that @ work and also seen it everyday, it does not matter what age you are. I’m just frustrated, because management does not see it, who do you talk to, it’s awful and I feel helpless… Help

Nurse Sue
4 years ago

Yes, unfortunately there are Nurse Bullies out there! I too have had one experience with this when all I was doing was after 2 weeks of painful gossip-I had enough!!! I had attempted to stop a Bully from hurting another New Nurse… The Nurse Bully was upset that her schedule she worked hard to get was potentially going to change. The Nurse Bully kept on for literally 2 weeks by telling all staff on all shifts how awful this New Nurse was because, “Who did she think she was coming into a new job demanding only certain shifts?!” I at… Read more »

Kimberly Johnson
4 years ago

I worked on a trauma unit…where the nurses are allowed to believe they are gods…and was constantly berated by them. There were many cliques; they hot shots looking for endorsement to go to nurse anesthesiology school, the hootchies looking for a doctor husband, and the rare bird that loved what they did and were happy to share their knowledge. I actually went to the manager, and it put a target on my back. Seems she was a drinking buddy with the “in” crowd. When I went above her for writing me up based on hear say, I was told that… Read more »

4 years ago

I experienced a high level of bullying and managed to maintain my professionalism. The bullying served to motivate me to sharpen my assessment skills, IV skills and computer documentation skills. The first 6 months of the bullying were very difficult. Thereafter, I was able to come to work and not let the ostracism affect me. I treated everyone respectfully, helped out as needed and generally let it be known that I was always available to assist my co-workers. I was also assertive in requesting assistance with my own assignment if I needed help, always keeping patient safety at the forefront… Read more »

4 years ago

Sorry you had to go through what you did. I don’t know why some people feel the need to put others down. I guess it’s to make themselves feel bigger, they are pathetic. But I commend you for using the experience to become, what sounds like, a very attentive and fair manager. The people working with you are very lucky !

5 years ago

They need more work if they have time to bully! …but seriously I had this experience when I was a nurse extern in the OR. They were certainly in their little snobby clusters throughout the OR, Pre and Post OP care, They wanted to run me ragged, make me feel stupid, and shunned. I decided early on, no matter what they said or did I was going to still be me. Friendly, kind, hard working …me. For some it made them mad and they snubbed me more, for others they came around and began to see my value, a few… Read more »

5 years ago

Nurses eat their young , it doesn’t matter what age … You could be giving report to a nurse with half your experience years knowledge competency etc and some nurses feel like they have to be on a power trip at all times. It’s nothing but their own insecurities and incompetence because if they actually listened they wouldn’t have to ask the same question that you already answered five other times . It’s sad that some people have nothing better to do than try to make others feel incompetent when it’s really just a reflection of their own . You… Read more »

5 years ago

Ann has a good strategy. I noticed a pattern of behavior directed at me by one particular nurse in my unit when I was a new nurse. She was intent on “tripping me up” during report and pointing out my deficiencies. I politely stopped her one evening and assured her that I was open to receiving what she had to say and that she could tell me anything she wanted but insisted that she do it in a respectful manner. There was a rather uncomfortable silence… I finished my report and it never happened again.

5 years ago

Yes.. I have been bullied… But I used it to my advantage..ask the bullier to teach,show, and explain… They either get it or they don’t. One can learn a lot, if you just turn it around…. Young nurses have bullied me… Been a nurse for 43+ years… I know a lot, but not everything… I expect coworkers to share knowlege.. Not to bully… Time and patience can be one’s best friend..