Can a nurse be an abuser? That’s the question we were asked in another thread by someone who wants to write about domestic violence and bullying. “Have you yourself been guilty of bullying? Have you yourself been an abuser?” I would venture to say that she’s going to get very few — if any — answers in the affirmative. Bullies don’t think they’re bullies and abusers don’t think they’re abusers.
I don’t have much to say about bullies except that I don’t think they’re nearly as prevalent as reading the posts on AN would have us think. In forty years, I’ve met two nurses who were bullies in the workplace. I know they’re out there; I just don’t think they’re so common that new nurses graduating from nursing school and starting their first jobs need to worry about them. Neither of the two thought of themselves as bullies — they were only “giving back as good as I got” or “giving him what he asked for” or “saddled with incompetent co-workers.” I doubt very much that they would admit to being bullies, especially on an international forum like this one.
Can a nurse be an abuser? That I can answer. Yes, nurses can be abusers.
My ex-husband, the abuser I fled after he tried to strangle me to death while chanting “I’ll fix you. I’ll fix you for good. I’ll fix you . . .” was a nurse. In counseling, he admitted to “shoving” his first wife, but claims it wasn’t abuse because he never put her into the hospital. The SO of a friend who not only raped her while her children watched but allowed his friends to do the same — also a nurse. The colleague who was arrested for domestic violence after his wife called the police to beg for help because he had locked her in their house and was standing in the front yard armed and threatening to shoot her — he was a nurse. He and I worked night shift together, and he told me all about the situation. He couldn’t seem to STOP talking about it. He admitted to firing a couple of shots at her, but maintains it wasn’t abuse or domestic violence because he “only meant to scare her” and besides, she started the fight. And the colleague who raped his wife and beat her within an inch of her life explained that it was “only rough sex” when he came back to work after serving his month in jail. He claims his arrest was “bogus” and that he wouldn’t harm his wife because he loved her. A nurse with whom I worked for years is on his fifth divorce, and every single one of his wives told the same story — “he has a temper and he hits me sometimes.”
I’ve worked with every single one of those men . . . not bullies at work. In fact, every single one of them was described by our colleagues as “charming”, “funny”, “the life of the party”. Their co-workers, bosses and orientees loved them. Doctors loved them, patients loved them and they got plenty of complimentary letters from former patients and family members. When rumors of their violence toward their partners began to circulate, no one could believe it.
The thing about abusers is that they can be absolutely charming to someone on the phone, put down the phone and knock you across the room, and then pick up the phone and continue the jovial conversation exactly where they left off. They can be the life of the party and then knock you down the stairs when they get home. They claim they “flew off the handle” with you, that they’re sorry, they just “couldn’t control their temper.” But they’re very careful not to “fly off the handle” or lose control of their tempers when doing so could cause them trouble at work or reflect badly upon them in the community.
Nurses can be abusers; nurses ARE abusers. I have yet to meet an abuser who admits to being an abuser.