Being bullied and charged with abandonment

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Being bullied and charged with abandonment

Dear Nurse Beth,

I am a nurse with a little over two years of experience.

I have never had issues with coworkers that I wasn't able to resolve and I have never had disciplinary action or sat in front of HR in all of that time.

I changed units to one that is notoriously "hard to step into" because of personality and other toxic behaviors. My charge nurse said to me on my first day of training "I give you a year before you're off this unit.”

Thought it was strange but carried on. She was horrible to me thru my training, eventually ended up being unwilling to train me, criticized me constantly and made rude comments to me directly and about me at the nurses station. She talks a lot at the nurses station and ignores alarms going off to continue talking about her personal life. It is very distracting and I have asked her to please refrain.

Other people on the unit are suffering from her bullying as well and I've been told she has driven good nurses from the unit. I have been planning my escape but wanted to try and make it to the one year mark to show I am a good sport and for professional courtesy.

This nurse was pushing my buttons and knew I was starting to get upset. I asked her to stop and she did not. I checked on my post op patient, made sure they were safe and secure and had call light within reach. I then walked down to the hallway to my managers office in tears. I know crying at work is unprofessional and I shouldn't have done it but I have frequently found myself reaching my limit with this person.

As I was talking to my boss, she told me to take a break and she would talk to the charge to cover my patient. The whole convo was maybe 1-2 minutes. My bosses boss didn't like that I was crying and overheard our conversation. She immediately states that because I came to my boss office down the hall that I had abandoned my patient. This made me even more upset to the point of sobbing and I told her I would go back to the unit right this moment and that I would never intentionally do that to a patient.

She told me I was being unprofessional in the way I was speaking because I was crying. She set a meeting to resolve the issue between the charge and myself. Because she had mentioned patient abandonment and this scared me to the depths of my soul, I asked my union rep to sit on the meeting with me. I felt an ambush coming.

They called HR to be there as well. I was completely steamrolled and the situation manipulated and it was a really awful horrible meeting and made me sound like I'm constantly leaving my patients, which I absolutely am not.

I was told one time in the past during another bullying incident not to leave without telling my charge, same situation where I went to my boss office and my patient was immediately covered. During that meeting My charge lied and said she has never had any issue with me, and that is not true. It was turned on me that the issue was my inability to control my emotions and that I am perceiving everything wrong and that I am not direct enough with my communication.

She then said that because I had walked down the hall to my bosses office (maybe 40 feet from my unit) without telling my charge (who is also my bully's) that I would be investigated for patient abandonment.. I am usually able to keep my frustrations with her in check. I only popped down there for a sec and was going to immediately return. I am so scared and feel like I will lose my job and license and my reputation in nursing will be ruined.

I was so traumatized by the experience that I called out sick to work the next day.

I have to go to work and face them all on Tuesday and it's making me feel physically sick to think about.

 I am considering leaving the profession altogether because this has scared me so much. I just want to take care of people and after pouring my soul into Covid nursing and not dealing with a bully I feel this profession has chewed me up and spit me out

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Bullied,

I'm sorry to hear that a charge nurse is bullying you. Bullying is unacceptable and can hurt your mental and physical health and job performance.

 You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Steps You Can Take To Protect Yourself From Bullying:

Document the bullying.

Record any bullying incidents, including the date, location, and what was said or done.

Talk to the charge nurse.

It can be difficult, but try to talk privately with the charge nurse about the bullying. Let her know how it's affecting you and ask her to stop.

When she is "pushing your buttons," be prepared with a reply. 

When you are being bullied, standing up for yourself calmly and assertively is essential. Here are some things you can say to the person who is bullying you:

"I don't appreciate being treated this way. Please stop."

"What you're doing is not okay. Please leave me alone."

"I'm not going to let you bully me. I deserve to be treated with respect."

"Your behavior is hurtful and unacceptable. Stop now."

Remember, staying calm and assertive when confronting a bully is important. Don't resort to name-calling, crying, or violence, as this will only escalate the situation.

Talk to your supervisor.

If the charge nurse doesn't stop the bullying, or if you don't feel comfortable talking to them, talk to your supervisor. Explain the situation and provide any documentation you have.

Set a pre-arranged time when you are calm. Avoid unscheduled drop-ins on your boss when you are emotionally upset.

Seek support.

Bullying can be very isolating, so seeking help from colleagues, friends, or family is essential. You could also consider talking to a therapist or counselor.

Know your rights. 

Be familiar with your organization's policies and procedures and any legal protections that may apply. In some cases, bullying may be considered harassment or discrimination, which is illegal. Talk with your union rep.

Threatening nurses with patient abandonment is a scare tactic. Walking down the hall to your manager's office is not patient abandonment.

However, clear communication and notifying your charge nurse that you are taking a break are essential. The team needs to know where you are at all times.

Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and there are people who can help you address the situation.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

I have my own take on these types of situations, I share it only because of having successfully handled people like this. Most have been run-of-the-mill but a couple have been serious, one put patients in direct danger, harmed them, and tried to sabotage my nursing care.  Others have disagreed with me on this forum before and I understand their view but I still believe in what I'm about to say:

I prefer the approach of stand up tall, put your shoulders back and go about your work, interacting with this bully charge nurse only professionally and only when completely necessary. At the same time, don't shy away from them when interaction is necessary. Other than that, stay busy taking the best care of your patients that you can. Those are just the basics.

I prefer this approach because of exactly what you are describing--a situation where the bullied individual starts to cave and can then be subject to mostly bogus but sometimes real criticisms of their reaction to poor treatment.

Bullies are weak, possibly some of the weakest among us. They pick on people whom they think will be bothered by their antics; people whom they perceive to be weak.  Otherwise they don't have the guts to behave the way they do. I believe that if the bully is not threatening one's physical or legal safety then it's certainly worth a shot to take the approach I mentioned above. I realize we're all different but I don't see how there's a lot to lose in at least trying it--these people are already threatening you and it doesn't sound like you have a lot of support. So your most realistic options are 1) get railroaded  or 2) find your calm, find your confidence, show up with a new attitude that you aren't going to be messed with

Good luck


I would post this on a nursing subreddit to get more advice. 

I'm sorry you had to deal with this. If at all possible, I would just resign if it is at all possible. The fact that the charge nurse is still there means the organization 100% tolerates it and her. She is protected and will stay protected. I've seen this happen before in healthcare administration. Just remember you are in the right here. They are not. Don't worry about a gap in your resume or anything like that. Your mental health is more important. 

If you can't resign then make sure you have what actually happened (vs what you were accused of) written down with dates and other important information. See if the union can help you in any other way. Maybe a transfer? But I highly recommend you resign.

Also, if someone says something like that know you DO NOT need to prove them wrong. She is a bad person, a bad nurse and a person whose approval and respect you don't need. 

Please try a few more jobs until you can find one where you feel valued and respected. They are out there. Maybe even consider less than your ideal jobs or be flexible until you can find the perfect job. 

Specializes in NICU, PICU, Transport, L&D, Hospice.

I wouldn't worry about staying that year to prove anything to the bully or the people who tolerate her bullying.  Find another job and figure out how to make yourself appear less like a punching bag for the next bully.  

Specializes in Rad Onc RN.

Nursing is so much more than one nasty unit. Leave - life is too short. There's so many nursing units with great nurses that will welcome you and support you with great team work. You have nothing to prove to that person, and that unit was lucky to have you while you were there.


Specializes in Critical Care.

Sounds like the hospital has toxic management coming from the top.  Accusing you of patient abandonment for simply walking over to your bosses office! And this from your boss's boss!  Plus they tolerate the bully that has run many nurses off.

Why stay?  I would give my two weeks notice ASAP!  It is definitely not you.  It is them.  Who treats people like that!  Threatening and intimidating you when you were simply trying to talk to the boss about the bullying problem.  They are disrespectful and you deserve better!  Let the brood of vipers work the floor after they have run everyone off.  Don't waste anymore of your time and energy at a place that treats you so terribly!  They don't deserve you!

Best of luck to you!