Did you know October is National Bullying Awareness Month? The problem of bullying is one nurses are sadly all too familiar with. We've selected a few comments our ModernNurse readers have shared regarding their own stories and thoughts on this important topic. Read below and share your own thoughts on workplace bullying and what we can do to be a part of the solution.
Additionally, Drexel University is offering a free webinar that examines the contemporary trends and issues of bullying in the healthcare work environment.
Click here to register today for Workplace Bullying: Not Acceptable/Not Tolerated, Do You Know What To Do? on Wednesday, October 31 at 12 pm EST presented by Paul Thomas Clements, PhD, APRN-BC, CGS, DF-IAFN, Associate Clinical Professor and Coordinator of Drexel's Certificate in Forensic Trends in Contemporary Healthcare.
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 teammates 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.
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.
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!
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 preconceived. 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.
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 were decent 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. Don't 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.
- Ruth N.
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!
- Lynda M.
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 frequently. 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 this very real problem. --Ellen
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.
- Bob G.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Share in the comments section below.