Unfortunately, bullies—people who like to intimidate, degrade, offend, or humiliate others and create hostile work environments—and bullying have been part of the healthcare system for a long, long time. It is now called several different names: work-place violence, lateral/horizontal violence, workplace intimidation, professional incivility, and even, nurse-to-nurse hostility.
Research shows that bullying may start as early as nursing school. Students report feeling exploited, ignored, or unwelcome by classmates. These are all behaviors that might be described as bullying.
In a recent survey of nurses, it was found that bullying can occur in any unit in a hospital. The lowest incidence of bullying seems to occur in obstetric areas while the highest is found on medical-surgical units.
Who are perceived as the bullies? Senior nurses, charge nurses, and nurse managers. The reason…to dominate and control behavior of others. Those most commonly on the receiving end are new grads, new hires, someone who has just received a promotion, or anyone who is perceived as being the most vulnerable.
While there have been instances of physical abuse, more often bullying takes the form of refusing to speak to a colleague, giving unwarranted criticism, raising the voice, gossiping, being condescending, taking credit for another’s work, and making derogatory comments about staff members. Refusing to answer questions or showing impatience with questions are other forms of bullying.
No matter what we call it or how it’s manifested, bullying generates an atmosphere that can and does negatively affect quality of care. It interferes with teamwork, collaboration and communication and leads to medical errors, poor patient satisfaction, adverse outcomes, higher costs, and loss of qualified staff.
Many hospitals have adopted strategies to combat bullying. Educating staff, holding individuals accountable for their behavior, adopting zero tolerance for bullying behaviors, and establishing reporting systems for intimidating/disruptive behaviors to name a few.
But how does an individual nurse reduce bullying? The simple answer (but maybe not so easy to do) is by treating everyone with respect and patience. Oh, and not getting pulled into the gossip and other negative behaviors you may see on the unit.
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