Bullying is a real phenomenon in the workplace and it affects nurses of all ages and levels of experience. According to Townsend (2016), forms of bullying include personal attacks such as isolation, intimidation, and humiliation. These forms of bullying can cause erosion of professional competence, reputation, damage professional identity, and limit career opportunities. Bullying, in the absence of corrective action, will proliferate and create a culture deprived of teamwork, communication, poor patient quality, high turnover of nurses, and an adverse effect on the organization’s bottom line.
Based on many years of nursing experience, observation, and conducting research on bullying in nursing, the background of bullies is filled with unmet needs. Bullies generally come from dysfunctional and abusive homes and families, live paycheck to paycheck, are low achievers, may be on some kind of medication for long-term medical issues. I was bullied in the workplace on numerous occasions. Nurses are not always aware that they are bullies. I suspect bullying behavior is a way of life for these nurses—bully or be bullied. Here is a scenario involving a bully:
An RN is training an LPN on how to administer medication to a group of inmates lined up for their evening medication. The RN constantly speaks with a loud tone berating the LPN on what she is doing wrong in front of the inmates. The LPN becomes nervous, losses focus and starts making more mistakes. After the pill line training the LPN breaks down crying and the bully has successfully eroded the victim’s confidence and credibility. The bully does not stop there, and labels the LPN weak and incompetent, communicating this to other staff who begin treating the LPN in a like manner.
It is time that the nursing profession takes a stronger stance against bullying. It is not enough that we seek to protect nurses through advocacy, policy, and resources. We must move towards addressing bullying in the workplace with more stringent measures that send a strong message for zero tolerance to bullying. There is a plethora of research on the harmful effects of bullying in the workplace. Zero tolerance for bullying should be the norm where nurses provide nursing services.
American Nurses Association. (n.d.). Violence, incivility, & bullying. Retrieved on 16 December from https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/work-environment/violence-incivility-bullying/