Bullying is a subject near and dear to my heart.
When I was a staff nurse I often found myself the victim of bullying. Over the years I've realized that the stereotypes about bullies are actually true. Most of the nurse bullies I've met fall into one of two categories:
1) The first category is nurses who are not very intelligent, don't have much empathy for their patients, and make a lot of mistakes. They have learned through experience that the best defense is a good offense. If they bully the smarter, more caring and gentle nurses then those nurses will be so busy defending themselves or so distracted by the bullying that they won't see all the the bully's mistakes and all of the things the bully is neglecting to do for their residents. They are often good at bullying their managers/charge nurses as well and are often able to get out of doing work because their supervisors realize it's easier to leave them alone than it is to fight with them.
2) Intelligent, "good" nurses who are diverting narcotics. I've never worked at any place where diversion was not going on. ICU, ER and inpatient rehab at a regional medical center. Home Health. Long term care. Every single place I've ever worked at has had one or more nurses caught diverting. They're often the best nurses, the ones who "run the unit." They do an awesome job of caring for their patients and constantly write up their coworkers or try to get their supervisors or managers in trouble. They show up to work on time every day and pick up tons of extra shifts. Management loves them (unless they go on the warpath against their managers) and their coworkers fear them. They keep the turnover high and prevent people from catching on to what they're doing by keeping them running, making the other staff try to please them. They, too, know that the best defense is a good offense. If they're constantly attacking and accusing, nobody has the time or the energy or the courage to look at them closely.
The first type back down pretty easily once you learn to stand your ground and start pointing out their mistakes to them. As a staff nurse I learned how to control this type and make it clear to them that I know exactly what they're doing with their bullying behavior. If they were assigned to precept orientees (and what type of idiot manager lets a bully be a preceptor anyway?!R) then I would follow them around and give them the evil eye when I caught them bullying the orientees. I let them know under no uncertain terms that I was watching, I knew what they were up to, and they better knock it off when I was around. I'd give the orientees some tips to deal with it and that helped a lot because they didn't feel victimized once they realized what was going on.
The second type are the dangerous ones. Really, the only way to control those bullies is to have a super strict narcotics supervision and management program and make catching drug diversion the one of the #1 goals of management. If a place doesn't have super strict narcotics supervision, I would not want to work there as a staff nurse.
I'm proud to say that in the 8 months since I've been in management we have managed to catch and fire some diverting bullies, and almost all of the stupid/poor performing bullies. Our staff is gradually becoming kinder, gentler, and more honest. This, of course, leads to a more peaceful work environment and much better resident care. I've had my tires slashed for it. I've got a security camera in my car to catch the next one to do it but I don't think it will happen again.
Bullies get the mistaken impression that kind people are weak people. Those of us who are kind and honest absolutely must be strong enough to get rid of the bullies. "Walk softly and carry a big stick."