5 Conversation Starters to Stop the Cycle of Nurse Bullying

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Nurse+BullyingEveryday of my life, a nurse reaches out to me asking for helping regarding a bullying situation. Seriously – EVERYDAY! When I check my email in the morning, I usually have at least 1 – 3 messages from nurses via my website, social media platforms, or through an email message. I can almost feel their pain as I read their stories of bullying by their colleagues – the colleagues who are supposed to support them.
In many of these situations, there is an element of silence by the targets, the witnesses AND the leadership teams. As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, many leaders use silence as a strategy! In a survey on academic incivility, nurse faculty reported that 56% ignored or took no action against student bullying yet when asked, only 10% thought that ignoring the behavior was effective.

In my opinion, we use silence as a strategy for 2 reasons:
1.     We fear retaliation – if we say something, that person will find a way to get us back. And, sometimes they do!
2.     We don’t know what to say – one of the biggest issues I’ve learned from nurses and nurse leaders is that they don’t know how to start a conversation about behavior. It’s easy to address clinical concerns, as it’s easier to be objective. However, when it comes to talking to someone about their behavior, we turn into scaredy cats!
However, addressing bullying behavior is a skill that can be learned and it starts with engaging in conversations with people about professional behavior and lack of!
When my book, Do No Harm” Applies to Nurses Too!was published, many nurse faculty and nurse managers started using this book to initiate conversations with their students/staff. They found it easier to talk about bullying using the book (“it’s not me saying these things…it’s in the book!”), so, I created a supplement to make it even easier to talk about bullying. In my resource, “Conversations About Nurse Bullying,”I developed over 100 questions and activities to help initiate conversations about bullying.
Here are a few of my favorites and ones I recommend to get the conversation started!
Excerpts from “Conversations About Nurse Bullying. A Toolkit for Nurse Leaders”
1.     The author suggests a “world where bullying doesn’t exist. Where nurses go out of their way to support each other…” Do you believe this world is possible?
2.     In chapter 1, the author describes “Cathy”, a nurse bully. Have you experienced anyone like Cathy in environment?” (Cathy is someone who screams and yells at everyone!)
3.     Female-to-female aggression is described in Chapter 5. What examples have you seen in your environment, personally or professionally, where females engage in unhealthy competition? Share examples of healthy competition among females.
4.     The author indicates that although confronting (bullying behavior) doesn’t always work, failure to confront NEVER works. What impact does failure to confront have on the nursing profession? Is it sometimes better to avoid and not confront bullying?
5.     What role does the manager have in holding employees accountable (for behavior)? What role do the employees have in holding each other accountable?
If we are ever going to stop the cycle of nurse bullying, we have to start talking about it!! I hope these few starter questions help YOU to go back to your workplace and engage YOUR colleagues in conversations about bullying.  We can no longer afford to use silence as a strategy!

Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read your comments about this topic!
Take care and stay connected
About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.

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