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Attention nurse bullies... and victims!!

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by Xtina, BSN, RN Xtina, BSN, RN (Member)

1 Like; 1,125 Visitors; 16 Posts

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Hello fellow nurses! One of my last projects for my RN-BSN program will be on lateral violence in nursing. I have a few questions for those who have been involved in bullying just so I can gain perspective.

Questions for the bullies (you know who you are and only the brave will answer...ha!):

What sets bullies off? Are you just angry people in general which carries over to your treatment of others? Do you realize it affects patient care? Tell me what drives you nuts at work. What is the most effective way someone has responded to you to get you to back off?

Questions for the victims:

Have you ever left a job because of bullying? How do you respond to bullying... ignore/confront? Does your facility have a way they deal with bullies? Have you noticed it directly affects the way you provide care for your patients?

NO JUDGEMENT HERE! Please be honest with your responses and maybe we can get a healthy dialogue going.

Thanks in advance!

Edited by Xtina, BSN, RN

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Ruby Vee has 40 years experience as a BSN.

946 Likes; 11 Followers; 64 Articles; 168,848 Visitors; 13,727 Posts

Most bullies -- and there are a few in nursing -- don't think they are bullies.

I've encountered two bullies in nursing over the past forty years. That's probably about the same as bullies in the general population. I've encountered many, many people who swear they've BEEN bullied, and very few of them can describe incidents that actually rise to the standard of bullying.

A few of the incidents that led to complaints of bullying:

"She won't have lunch with me. She eats with her friends."

"She won't answer any of my questions about her family -- she talks to all the OLD nurses, but not to me." (They met last week.)

"She never says "hello" to me in the morning." (Senior nurse who drives to work wearing her glasses, leaves them in the car and puts her contacts in when she gets to the unit. Said newbie encounters her in the lobby every morning, but has never greeted the senior nurse who can't see well enough without her glasses to recognize the newbie as someone she ought to know."

"They never ask me to go out after work."

"She hates me! She never answers my questions." (Senior nurse who was attempting to foster independence in her almost-off-orientation new grad by getting her into the habit of looking things up.)

Over the years, I've found that often those most concerned about BEING bullied are the ones with bullying tendencies. "My nurse touched a patient without gloves! How do I report her?" (Not "SHOULD I report her?" Not "is that acceptable practice?" Not "I talked to my instructor about it." But HOW do I report her?"). Reporting someone without first attempting to talk to them about it is bully behavior.

Oscar is having a very rough time. His wife of 47 years just died, his son skipped the funeral to steal all the valuables out of his house, and his back is hurting so much he thinks he's going to have to give up his EVS position. Omar, the CNA complains that "Oscar is really nasty these days. He doesn't talk to me at all, and he's muttering to himself when he cleaned up the mess I left on the floor. I told HIM off, though, and now I'm going to tell all of my friends that he dissed me and they should diss him." Who is the bully? Oscar, who is just trying to put one foot in front of the other and get through his day to collect a paycheck? Or Omar who is trying to enlist all of the other CNAs to "diss" Oscar?

Bullies don't think they're bullies. They just think they're "giving back what he gave me" Or "giving them what they deserve."

I've been accused of bullying. I was "guest precepting" and orientee years ago. At the time, my father was dying about a thousand miles from me and my mother was sinking deeper and deeper into Alzheimer's and my sister and I knew that we had to do something, but we weren't sure what to do or how to do it. There may even have been some denial. I was on the phone with my sister, Dad's doctor, Mom's doctor and a social worker several times during the course of that day, and I was ever so grateful that the orientee was almost off orientation and very independent. Later, MY orientee, who was off that day, told me what her friend had been saying. "She was rude to me. She wouldn't talk to me and she was on her phone all day. When she wasn't on the phone, she was going over my charting looking for mistakes. I don't know how you can deal with her, she's such a bully." After my orientee explained the situation, her friend reconsidered "reporting me" for "bullying her."

My colleague Inge has a reputation for being a bully. Inge is bipolar, although usually well controlled. Her husband has heart disease and at the time he was in his sixth month of a CCU stay and was being worked up for a transplant or a VAD. Inge has a teenaged son who has drug problems. She begged not to precept, but there weren't enough preceptors to go around and she got tagged anyway. With all that she had going on in her life, some days she just wasn't a very good teacher. A whole orientation group complained about what a big bully she was -- no one was willing to cut her any slack. You can't just not go to work for six months when you're working to continue the health insurance your family needs. And some problems just cannot be left at home.

Sometimes the "bully" is just someone who is having a really bad day. Or month. Or year.

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THANK YOU, Ruby Vee, BSN, RN, for your response! This is a very interesting perspective on bullying. It appears as though people can easily misinterpret others' behaviors and maybe some are perhaps a bit on the sensitive side. This is a very interesting topic that is anything but black and white. Thanks again!

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CelticGoddess has 6 years experience.

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RubyVee is right; Most don't know or won't admit they are bullies. I worked with a nurse who was a bully but knew how to manipulate HR and our manager into thinking he was the victim. Because of him, several of my co-workers had to attend lateral violence classes, 2 were written up and the rest of us did all we could to avoid him.

When he was first hired to our floor, we did all we could to include him. We did weekly "family dinners" and would invite him to share in our food, even though he never brought anything. We made sure he was aware of when these dinners would occur, giving him plenty of time to bring something, even if only cups/plates/cutlery. He just snubbed us.

In the wee hours when we were all working on our paperwork, he would sit himself in the furthers corner. We would try to draw him into conversation but he would snub us. Eventually, we got sick of trying. That is when he made his move. All of the sudden, there was a clique, some of us were bullies. He tried the whole divide and conquer with us (and it almost worked).

He went to my manager and told him that I could have prevented a patient from going into cardiac arrest (she went flat line in the middle of the rapid, she was brought back and actually walked out of the hospital 3 weeks later.). Fortunatley, the MD who was involved in the code backed me up. Nothing would have prevented this event from happening. He then told me that two of my co-workers told him to go to my manager. His memory sucks because neither were working that night.

This is the kind of thing he did. And he went to HR, our manager, or division manager and the DON with his complaints. He was allowed to transfer to another unit before his year was up so we were able to get rid of him. Still don't know why he hasn't been sacked. Not enough paper trail apparently.

I know that there are bullies in nursing (As there are in engineering, chemistry, law enforcement, fire fighting, EMS, teaching, etc. And if you want really catty: Computer programmers and IS. My sister can tell you stories that will raise your hair). And sometimes the bullies are obvious. But sometimes, they aren't obvious.

ETA: I don't believe i have been bullied int he workplace but was a victim of bullying when I was growing up. I was harassed, teased, lied about, hazed. You name it. I think that is why I am not so quick to yell "bully" when I work in a toxic environment. I was in x-ray in my former life, and my first job was absolutely horrible. It was a toxic environment and if you ask my husband, he'll tell you that yes, I was bullied. I know it was bad but I won't go so far as saying it was bullying.

Edited by CelticGoddess
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THANK YOU, CelticGoddess, BSN, RN, for your response! It's interesting that bullies don't know/won't admit they're bullies. Lack of self-awareness seems to be an issue here. Definitely gained some perspective from these responses as I'm sure others will as well!

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mmc51264 has 7 years experience and works as a RN.

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Most times, I find that the ones I consider bullies are very subtle, passive aggressive. They have learned how to "hide" it. the overtly aggressive ones are usually dealt with. We have long talks about tone and body language. Perception is reality. It someone perceives you as aggressive or bullying, maybe you are.

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Perception is reality. It someone perceives you as aggressive or bullying, maybe you are.

Perception is *their* reality. If someone perceives you as aggressive or bullying, maybe there are a number of other reasons that could explain how their perception is off-base, and another party may have a completely different perception about the situation/exchange.

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I've never worked in an environment where I was exposed to bullying... or at least I never acknowledged behaviors as such. Of course I've been around quite a few people that I didn't like, but not everyone is going to get along and that's to be expected IN LIFE. The real challenge/art is how one responds to these situations. Apparently it's easy to point fingers and call people bullies when in fact they're misinterpreting the situation d/t possible feelings of insecurity, being overly sensitive, or what have you. Whatever the case, there certainly doesn't seem to be an easy solution.

Has anyone seen/heard of "Code Pink"? If I'm understanding it correctly, apparently this is when other nurses/staff gather around the "bully" to make them stand down. Hmmm... not sure what to make of this.

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Has anyone seen/heard of "Code Pink"? If I'm understanding it correctly, apparently this is when other nurses/staff gather around the "bully" to make them stand down. Hmmm... not sure what to make of this.

In my hospital, "Code Pink" meant that there had been an infant abduction.

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Pepper The Cat has 33 years experience and works as a RN.

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In my hospital, "Code Pink" meant that there had been an infant abduction.

At my hospital is means a Paediatric Cardiac Arrest.

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KatieMI has 6 years experience as a BSN, MSN and works as a Internal Medicine.

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Xtina, check your PM, please!

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Questions for the victims:

Have you ever left a job because of bullying? How do you respond to bullying... ignore/confront? Does your facility have a way they deal with bullies? Have you noticed it directly affects the way you provide care for your patients?

Thanks in advance!

I was bullied during my preceptorship in nursing school. I was absolutely beside myself. I was so excited for the nursing experience and here I was struggling not to burst into tears every shift. There were aspects of the bullying that were not safe as far as patient care (for example: the RN would tell me to administer narcotics IV push by myself; she tried to stand in the way of me confirming med orders with the physician).

I tried my best to stay professional in the hospital. After a fairly short time I reported the situation to my school. They did not let me return to that floor and relocated me to a new hospital. The situation did not affect how I was with the patients but I feel sort of sick to my stomach thinking back to the experience.

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