The 5 Nurse Bully Types Every Hospital is Hiding

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Sometimes, the hospital feels like a giant playground filled with lots of expensive equipment. That’s because earning a set of scrubs doesn’t necessarily eliminate one’s bad habits—and bullying is no exception. In fact, the hospital may even be worse than the playground as far as bullies go—at least your middle-school nemesis didn’t carry a syringe.

Anyway, you know what they say: If you can’t beat them, classify them according to obscure and long-winded stereotypes.

So we did just that.

1. The “Ancient But Fierce” Type

Every unit has at least one nurse on staff who’s been around since the Civil War. Administration doesn’t really know what to do with her (rumor is she lives somewhere in the hospital). She doesn’t really like people, children included, and her methods are so outdated, they’re actually kind of dangerous.

The “ancient but fierce” bully doesn’t really do all that much, mostly because she’s a major liability, but she sure has a lot to say. Things like “That new nurse looks like a real harlot,” “Nurses nowadays are too soft” and “There are no men in nursing.”

If you read up on your history, you’ll find that the phrase “nurses eat their young” entered the nursing world at the same time she did.

2. The Selective Bully 

If there’s one bright side to having a real tyrant on the floor, it’s the steel bonds he or she creates between you and all the other sane nurses. That’s why the selective bully is simply the worst.

When Dale from the ER accidentally eats the selective nurse bully’s Clif bar, the bully laughs it off and tells Dale they’re going to have to start packing a lunch for two.

When you accidentally eat the selective bully’s Clif bar, the bully writes you a note saying you and your loved ones are no longer safe.

Dale can’t understand why you act so sour toward the selective nurse bully, who is always so generous and kind to him. You must be socially awkward.

3. The “See’s Candy” Style Bully

You know that saying “Life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get”? Yeah, so is this nurse bully. Depending upon the day, you’re not quite sure whether the See’s Candy nurse is going to bring you baked goods or verbally abuse you. So in their presence, you mostly just cringe.

Now, there’s no perfect formula, but you’ve at least discovered a slight pattern to this bully’s behavior. Before 11 am? Terrifying. Tuesdays? Approachable. Wednesdays? Forget about it—you might lose your hand.

4. The Cruel and Oppressive Ruler

This nurse bully is in the same league with dictators, whoever invented group texting and Regina George from Mean Girls—they’re just that evil.

The cruel and oppressive ruler doesn’t just humiliate and degrade you; you’re pretty sure they’re responsible for the inexplicable “KY jelly on the stairs” incident that left a new nurse with two broken fingers and a black eye.

You keep checking their work bag for potential weapons or signs of criminal activity. So far? No cigar.

5. The “I Didn’t Know Nursing Was Hard” Bully

This nurse bully is simply a product of ignorance. They probably saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, somehow came out on the other side of nursing school and then realized, moments after stepping into the hospital, that they actually hate everything about nursing.

Nobody told them that not every patient will dedicate their firstborn to them or that they’re really, seriously responsible for “cleaning in the folds.” Only stubborn pride and a lack of options has kept them in the field for this long, and everybody else is suffering for it.

They’re kind of like a Bitter Betsy on steroids, and for some reason, administration has placed them in charge of scheduling.

We’ll be saying a silent prayer for you.

So, there you have them—the five nurse bullies you’re likely to encounter in the hospital. We know we haven’t covered all of them, though.

So, help us out and tell us all about your (least) favorite bully type in the comments section below!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine



  1. Was bullied by serial bully for 3-4 yrs. She sabotaged my work as well as bullied me. She did not stop at work – followed my husband at night for a year. She was the one who was happy to tell me that he started smoking again. She would follow me into the grocery store and inspect my cart. She moved on from me to another and now is following someone else. Admin did nothing about it – I spoke with 3 levels of supervisors. Finally, we got a new Director who moved her to a different campus — now he is gone and she is bullying again. And I did not see anyone mention the gender-specific bullying that goes one in is very entrenched in my institution.

  2. I have had too many stays in a hospital. What comes to my mind, is the Nun that tried to bully me. She came into my room after I had my son. Her curt mean look had me ask what is wrong? Her reply that yellow top you have on is see thru. You need a robe on. I told her this is my room, and no one is coming in except my husband, he has see everything being I have been married 5 years. Off she went in a huff. I never did forget how mean she was.

  3. And just about the time you have staff brave enough to say, “we are not going to take this any more!” And actually give you specifics in writing add the unions into the picture. I lost 5 good nurses within a months time due to 1 bully. I write her up, HR interviewed them all, upheld my disciplinary action, and the union fought it saying my decision was pre-conceived. The VP had to get involved and it stuck. Where was the union protecting the rights of the abused nurses???
    It is present and we need to stay firm in not tolerating it. We grow the culture that allows bullies to flourish by NOT acting when we should.

  4. Unfortunately this is bad to no that all this goes on. I am a dialysis tech who is becoming a nurse. This disturbs me to here this. Great thing is I do not sleep on any types of bullying. I don’t mind confronting the situation when it happens. Nurses that I work with tell me I will be fine. Not sure if it is because the way I am or I’m not afraid to do what I need to do. I pray that the people who are getting bullied speak up for themselves.

  5. Obviously this is a very big problem as it has created more response than any other article I have seen posted. Something needs to be done ASAP.

  6. I wish this didn’t still bother me, but it does. The worst bully I have encountered in 47yrs. of emergency nursing is the woman who insisted that I be fired. She disagreed with me that an elderly woman with a K+ level of 2.2 should be able to sign out AMA and drive home or to the hospital if she wanted to. I engaged the pt’s daughter in an effort to facilitate a quick and safe transfer by having her drive her mother’s car and for her to go with our local paramedics to the nearest hospital. She finally agreed and was admitted and stayed for a four-day treatment of slow drip potassium. After several meetings with human resources, I was fired because I was considered to be acting outside my scope of practice. I was also denied unemployment coverage and had to go before a judge to have it begun. She was a young nurse with too much responsibility in a situation that was meant to be “the best care for the patient.” Within a week, she had a special meeting of my former team mates to warn them that she, herself, was feeling bullied by their unhappy reaction to my firing. I try to forget about being fired,because nursing was my love.

  7. How about the sneaky, snarky type of bully? The one who sets people up, intimidates new staff and has to be the one who”saves the day”. This person is the loudest, most attention seeking person in the place. She travels with a posse equally as snarky. Administration is totally aware of staff perceptions but alas… nothing.

  8. What about the sneaky, snarky type of bully??? You know the one who sets people up, intimidates new nurses,
    is the self proclaimed boss with helpful hints. This type has to be the center of attention at all times. She does have a posse who
    are just like her. There are new staff members who already have her number. Administration is well aware. What do they do? Give her an award. Yeah, that’s the answer….

  9. How about the sneaky, snarky bully?? The administration is well aware of her “practices” including setting people up to fail, “helpful hints”, intimidation of new staff. So what do they do? Give her an award. That’s telling her. I might add that most of the staff feels exactly this way…

  10. Unfortunately, nurses do eat their young and I never understood that–we were all young once. In fact, I have a friend who did her master’s thesis on “How Nurses Eat Their Young” and the reasons are endless!! About the comment how nurses hate everything about the job–obviously we don’t or we wouldn’t continue to do it. Nursing school was no picnic, but we all completed it. Maybe that says something about most of us!! But, look at it from the other side–we touch people’s lives everyday and we are able to do something 99.9% of the rest of the population can’t. I think that’s really special!

  11. I can honestly say in 25 years of nursing I have worked with a few “wanna be bullies” but mostly just very good nurses who where descent people. I’ve found being firm,fair and friendly to co working nurses goes a long way, with an equal emphasis on each of those 3 components. Also, being professionally assertive and confront negative issues when they occur. I don’t mean hostile confrontation. I mean simply respectfully standing up for yourself. Just knowing that you will respond back derails many bully personalities. Dont allow negative emotions to build along with fear and resentment. This is what happens when others make bad remarks and you do not address the inappropriateness of it. We all need to treat others with respect and then expect the same from them.

  12. Wow. We’ve never met but you perfectly described my boss from my previous hospital. She was a Selective Bully who had been around forever Even the CEO of the hospital didn’t dare to confront her. Thank God I finally. Figured out her agenda and found another job before she could carry it out!

  13. Unfortunately Nursing as in many professions attracts the mentally unstable at times. I have had the misfortune of working with a few scary individuals. These nurses are down right unstable. They are socially awkward and outside their little niche are barely able to function. Fortunately these nurses have been very infrequent in my three decades of Nursing. Most nurses are kind, caring, entertaining people to work with.

  14. I did not realize that this nurse bully is in every nursing setting even at the nurse instructor faculty level. The nurse bully in this setting is one who has been around for a while and so knows how the system work. The bully is apopular with the students and the administration. The bully belongs to High school like clicks of nurses who talk in whispers and will just exclude you. should you try to protest this mean culture, the situation will be made even harder for you. There will be nothing you can do that is seen right and the top most administrator will not help you either. I also noted some very unprofessional tendencies with some instructors befriending some students who will spy on new instructor for them so it’s harder for you all round so you can quit! t,Terrible!
    Nurses ought to act or treat Pple compassionately because nursing out to be a calling needing our compassionate attributed to enable us help sick people and yet it’s not the case! Terrrreble!

  15. Most bullies are allowed to be that way because administration does nothing to stop this despicable behavior. You will find this in every healthcare setting. It should be discussed more frequenly. Administration that allows this or ignores this should be disciplined along with the bullies . Serious action should be taken by nursing boards. This might help curtail thisvery real problem.

  16. Any thoughts / advice on how to handle these people? I never know what to say and then kick myself all day for not doing something.

  17. You’ve only scratched the surface! I’ve seen many types of bullies in the medical work place. Problem is they love attention from the boss and your colleagues. I ask them to go to a quiet room and have a one on one discussion. That seems to take the wind out of their sails. They don’t have the lights and they look much different in the quiet setting. Someday I’m going to write an article on this subject and I hope it gets published. There are many good nurses out there who tolerate this behavior. They love helping the patients, as I do, but there are quite a few who try to discourage that. Such a shame.

  18. I agree with the article. How about that nurse that you can work with side by side and she is helpful and nice to have around…….then, she decides she could be the CHARGE nurse…….and she turns into a real monster…

  19. The nurse who plays up to Admin to get a promo then dumps her work on others so she can look good and hide her incompetence and lack of people skills

  20. Great article and on point. Yes nurses eat their young… And there never enough done to stop them all. Thanks

Comments are closed.

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