nurse on nurse bullying

  1. Nurse on nurse bullying, sadly, is nothing new. In the mid 80's the phrase with which many of us are acquainted "nurses eat their young" was coined by a professor of nursing. Research into the subject has been undertaken in the USA since the early 1990s with a rash of research appearing in the early to mid 2000s. The research confirms that this is a chronic problem in the Nursing profession. Whether it is viewed as a rite of passage or as something that nurses do to "vent" their own frustrations at the system appears to be at issue.

    The current research grew from my witnessing nurse on nurse bullying following a return to work 6 weeks to the day from the date of surgery by a nurse after she had undergone major cancer surgery. The verbal ferocity of the attack, the fact that it was supervisor on an administrator, and of the fact that no one who witnessed it or who heard about it thereafter called out the perpetrator on her actions. The response by team members and the senior administrator was actually worse: "oh...that's the way she is. She's been that way for years. She does that to everyone." Clearly, that is not the correct response.

    When this incident was recounted to other nurses from a variety of work environments, it was met with knowing shrugs. Nurses started to tell me their personal stories and stories of bullying they had witnessed from the time they were students. As a nurse educator, i decided to write a survey and to engage in some systematic research. I have created a survey of nurse on nurse bullying on Survey Monkey that will take 2 minutes and 23 seconds to answer. Your responses will help me to gather real information that can be quantified and measured, written up in an article and disseminated throughout the profession to enable us to get a grip on this problem. Here's the link to the survey. Stay tuned for the results. nurse on nurse bullying Survey
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    About profdocmaher

    Joined: Mar '18; Posts: 1
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience

    23 Comments

  3. by   mejsp
    I took your survey, but wish it included n/a. I skipped the questions that did not apply. On years of experience, you list one. You didn't become a PhD-prepared professor with one year of experience.

    The bullying I experienced was as a veteran nurse. From student reports, I believed a fellow instructor played mind games and bullied the students. They tearfully shared their stories. I was asked by a department head to tell all. She had also heard the student's concerns. She confronted the fellow instructor who turned her attention toward me. Her bullying was non-verbal, but I didn't choose "physical" which sounds violent. Her behavior didn't make me resign, but it was one of the factors which influenced my decision.
  4. by   MunoRN
    Your survey is based on the false assumption that everyone has the same definition of "nurse on nurse bullying", and your only example is of a nurse-nurse confrontation which is not the same as bullying. Maybe you could clarify how you are defining "bullying" for the purpose of the survey.
  5. by   TriciaJ
    The term "bullying" needs to be much more specifically defined than it ever is. As long as it is whatever anyone says it is, no survey will be worth diddly-squat. "Research" can "prove" whatever anyone wants it to.
  6. by   JKL33
    I think it's something just short of ridiculous to not talk about bullying more in terms of people of unequal role status. Actually, not even that: What would be better is to just move on to much bigger problems plaguing our profession.

    Either way, nurses who focus on (poorly-defined) "bullying" and "workplace incivility" and "lateral violence" (violence??!!) are doing us a huge disservice. Our main problem is those whose job includes an inherent incentive to keep us down as a group. Having a group of nurses on extreme high alert for "anything my fellow workers might do that hurts my feelings" is a brilliant business move. If you can't see how, you are part of the problem.

    We need to get ourselves together.
  7. by   wondern
    Bigger problems plaguing our profession???

    Pt-staff ratios? Pay? Bullying is a huge problem everywhere.
  8. by   wondern
    Quote from TriciaJ
    The term "bullying" needs to be much more specifically defined than it ever is. As long as it is whatever anyone says it is, no survey will be worth diddly-squat. "Research" can "prove" whatever anyone wants it to.
    But at least its a start and brings attention to the issue so really how can it hurt?

    main-qimg-4e22c487fd7307259747bde34d5f0562-
    Letting this kind of behavior go unchecked is what is a huge disservice.
  9. by   Wuzzie
    Quote from wondern
    But at least its a start and brings attention to the issue so really how can it hurt?

    main-qimg-4e22c487fd7307259747bde34d5f0562-
    Letting this kind of behavior go unchecked is what is a huge disservice.
    Some of the things listed are NOT bullying. Bad behavior of course! Unacceptable behavior absolutely! But not bullying.
  10. by   TriciaJ
    Quote from wondern
    But at least its a start and brings attention to the issue so really how can it hurt?

    main-qimg-4e22c487fd7307259747bde34d5f0562-
    Letting this kind of behavior go unchecked is what is a huge disservice.
    It's a "start" that never gets anywhere. There are complaints ad nauseum from people who claim to have been "bullied". Sometimes all it means it someone didn't say hello to them.

    Let's look at the list: "Shouting": I've known people to complain of being shouted at when all they were is corrected. They weren't spoken to in anger and no voices were raised.

    "Making someone feel unimportant": what does that even mean? How do you control how someone feels? How do you gauge every interaction to make sure someone feels important?

    "Excessive monitoring": this forum alone is rife with threads from new grads who seem to take umbrage at any monitoring. How do we measure excessive?

    "Making someone feel bad and ashamed": See "Making someone feel unimportant" above.

    Some of the items on the list actually are examples of poor behaviour. But I still think definitions need to be a lot more specific and reflect a power imbalance. I agree with JKL. The real "bullying" is the divide and conquer culture set up by TPTB. When we're busy tattling on one another for "being made to feel unimportant" then we're not presenting a united front to address the real issues.

    By the way, nothing pits people against one another faster than unrealistic work loads. If I'm working flat out and there are still things that need to be done, it's easy to conclude someone else isn't doing their share. If people are exhausted and starting to get cranky with one another, let's label that as "bullying" and keep everyone busy barking up the wrong tree.
  11. by   JKL33
    Hi wondern,

    My concern is this: Except for perhaps the first two items on your list, all of the items included are regular tactics involved in employing nurses and managing them (us), stemming from (and perpetuated by) the very top. I haven't personally observed or experienced the first two much in any regard in my professional life (from management or from coworkers/physicians/etc), though some people have I suppose.

    It makes no sense to focus on each other (either through committing bad behavior against one another or through focusing on others' isolated bad behavior).

    Take a look at this list and think about whether staffs are treated like this on the whole:

    Attempts to make their concerns seem unimportant

    Disrespectful communication

    Excessive monitoring/writing up/reporting - including the encouragement to be "200% accountable" (i.e monitor, write up and report your peers)

    Constant nitpicking and criticising - way too much "not quite good enough" (including all "Oreo" statements: Thanks for all your hard work! But, we still suck. Thanks so much!)

    Attempts to make feel bad - we aren't doing good enough/we aren't making people happy/we are taking too long at this, that, or the other thing

    Deliberately overloading - requires no explanation

    Undermining - Any budget- or management-related stipulation that puts us at odds with our primary ethical duties

    Purposely withholding information - I include any use of fake "statistics" here; lies about why we are doing things a certain way; lies about the origins errors

    **

    I suspect it's easy to focus on our peers because these behaviors by those who employ nurses and manage nursing service lines seem truly insurmountable.

    Whatever one's definition, the issue of bullying in nursing amounts to infighting. The thing that makes any infighting so destructive is people's lack of ability to not engage in it and focus on it. Focusing on it is engaging in it. Otherwise, run-of-the-mill workplace bullies are one-offs. Refusing to engage them eventually stymies them.

    If this is such a big problem, then one must ask why it continues. It continues because when a harmful person with ill-intent is actually identified and this can be well-substantiated - - nothing major happens! Long before that person ever gets fired, everyone else will be warned and threatened about "our" behaviors. There will be more rules, for everyone. There will be more things declared "wrong." Definitions broaden. Stress increases. Suspicion of peers swells. Intents are questioned constantly. Fear increases. Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick: Nurses need more rules and more control and clearly they need to be policed - - say those who stand to benefit from such.

    Death by a thousand picks.

    I believe this phenomenon/sequence of events supports my overall premise: It is useful for others if we keep bothering ourselves with all of this.

    So no, I will not be focusing on Susie-who-didn't-include-me or Jamie-who-rolled-her-eyes, or Tracy-who-always-says-she's-busy-when-I-ask-for-help, or Brianna-who-said-I-did-something-but-really-I-didn't, or Stephanie-who-said-something-mean-about-tattoos, or Kristy-who-thinks-she-knows-everything or Ryan-who-pushes-meds-slower/faster-than-I-do.

    wondern, I'm not saying that treating people poorly is okay. I'm saying that nursing would be on the upswing yesterday if we called BS on all of this and moved on.
  12. by   TriciaJ
    Quote from JKL33
    Hi wondern,

    My concern is this: Except for perhaps the first two items on your list, all of the items included are regular tactics involved in employing nurses and managing them (us), stemming from (and perpetuated by) the very top. I haven't personally observed or experienced the first two much in any regard in my professional life (from management or from coworkers/physicians/etc), though some people have I suppose.

    It makes no sense to focus on each other (either through committing bad behavior against one another or through focusing on others' isolated bad behavior).

    Take a look at this list and think about whether staffs are treated like this on the whole:

    Attempts to make their concerns seem unimportant

    Disrespectful communication

    Excessive monitoring/writing up/reporting - including the encouragement to be "200% accountable" (i.e monitor, write up and report your peers)

    Constant nitpicking and criticising - way too much "not quite good enough" (including all "Oreo" statements: Thanks for all your hard work! But, we still suck. Thanks so much!)

    Attempts to make feel bad - we aren't doing good enough/we aren't making people happy/we are taking too long at this, that, or the other thing

    Deliberately overloading - requires no explanation

    Undermining - Any budget- or management-related stipulation that puts us at odds with our primary ethical duties

    Purposely withholding information - I include any use of fake "statistics" here; lies about why we are doing things a certain way; lies about the origins errors

    **

    I suspect it's easy to focus on our peers because these behaviors by those who employ nurses and manage nursing service lines seem truly insurmountable.

    Whatever one's definition, the issue of bullying in nursing amounts to infighting. The thing that makes any infighting so destructive is people's lack of ability to not engage in it and focus on it. Focusing on it is engaging in it. Otherwise, run-of-the-mill workplace bullies are one-offs. Refusing to engage them eventually stymies them.

    If this is such a big problem, then one must ask why it continues. It continues because when a harmful person with ill-intent is actually identified and this can be well-substantiated - - nothing major happens! Long before that person ever gets fired, everyone else will be warned and threatened about "our" behaviors. There will be more rules, for everyone. There will be more things declared "wrong." Definitions broaden. Stress increases. Suspicion of peers swells. Intents are questioned constantly. Fear increases. Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick: Nurses need more rules and more control and clearly they need to be policed - - say those who stand to benefit from such.

    Death by a thousand picks.

    I believe this phenomenon/sequence of events supports my overall premise: It is useful for others if we keep bothering ourselves with all of this.

    So no, I will not be focusing on Susie-who-didn't-include-me or Jamie-who-rolled-her-eyes, or Tracy-who-always-says-she's-busy-when-I-ask-for-help, or Brianna-who-said-I-did-something-but-really-I-didn't, or Stephanie-who-said-something-mean-about-tattoos, or Kristy-who-thinks-she-knows-everything or Ryan-who-pushes-meds-slower/faster-than-I-do.

    wondern, I'm not saying that treating people poorly is okay. I'm saying that nursing would be on the upswing yesterday if we called BS on all of this and moved on.
    A thousand likes. There is a Russian proverb that says "A fish begins to stink from the head." Anything on the "bully list" has to first be condoned and/or perpetuated by management. All the nonsense about "workplace incivility" and "lateral violence" are functions of extremely dysfunctional management.

    We can keep running in circles, doing endless and futile "research" on the symptoms or we can do the hard thing and start to address root causes.
  13. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    Quote from JKL33
    Hi wondern,

    So no, I will not be focusing on Susie-who-didn't-include-me or Jamie-who-rolled-her-eyes, or Tracy-who-always-says-she's-busy-when-I-ask-for-help, or Brianna-who-said-I-did-something-but-really-I-didn't, or Stephanie-who-said-something-mean-about-tattoos, or Kristy-who-thinks-she-knows-everything or Ryan-who-pushes-meds-slower/faster-than-I-do.

    wondern, I'm not saying that treating people poorly is okay. I'm saying that nursing would be on the upswing yesterday if we called BS on all of this and moved on.
    YEP!!!

    I believe that there is nurse bullying and I've seen mean nurses rip apart a new victim in a systemic manner like a pack of wolves devouring a wayward sheep. This is organized, vicious and also pretty darn rare. What I normally see is the stupid, rude and petty interactions described above that get labeled bullying. Honestly for all the "victims" out there unless you can point to something tangible except hurt feelings get over it already. Everybody DOESN'T have to get along. We just have to work with each other and help our patients. Its work. That's all
    Last edit by SpankedInPittsburgh on Mar 17
  14. by   JS McCabe, RN
    If everyone treated everyone with respect and dignity it would be much better for our patients and much better for our profession. Yes, we don't have to all "like" one another but behaving in a professional manner and working as a team instead of individuals would at least provide excellent care for our patients. That by itself would be a wonderous thing. I read all the comments about how there are "much bigger problems" facing our profession and I agree we've got more than one problem; however, does it not seem ironic that we apparently cannot even agree on whether or not nurse to nurse bullying is a problem or the defination thereof? How can we agree on anything else if we cannot even face this issue? Our jobs would be so much easier if everyone was treated respectfully and our units were all fully staffed because at least this issue was conquered.

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