In the last 3 weeks I’ve received over a dozen requests for help from students who believe their instructors are bullying them. Many of these students are at the end of their program but there is typically one instructor who is hell bent on failing them before they can graduate. It’s so sad to read and listen to their stories about how unsupportive and downright nasty their instructors are to them. Examples include telling a student, “I have the power to pass or fail you,” an instructor rolling her eyes in front of other students once the targeted student walks away; repeatedly giving failing grades or asking a student to rework papers over and over again that look almost identical to other students; and openly criticizing and embarrassing a student in front of patients and peers.
What messages are we sending when the nursing instructors who are responsible for the clinical and professional competence of our newest nurses are the ones who are behaving badly?
48% of graduating nurses are afraid that they will become the target of workplace bullying but many of these students experience bullying well before they ever step foot in the workplace.
Disclaimer: I recognize that there are some students who aren’t willing to accept accountability and are just blaming their instructor for being too hard on them by calling it “bullying.” However, some of the worst bullying behavior I’ve seen has been within the academic environment.
If you find yourself the target of faculty bullying, consider these 3 steps:
· Get a copy of any policy that addresses discrimination, incivility or harassment. Read it and compare your experiences to the language used in the policy. In particular, pay attention to anything that indicates how to file a formal complaint.
· Document, document, document. Documenting your experiences is the key to addressing the bullying behavior and staying in the nursing program.
· Seek support from the Academic Affairs department. The Director of Academic Affairs is responsible for ensuring academic and professional excellence and may be a great resource for you. You may decide to file a formal complaint with this department.
If we are ever going to eliminate nurse-to-nurse bullying, we have to start within the academic environment. If you believe an instructor is targeting you, speak up early and start documenting everything.
Nurses should be kind – not cruel.
I’d love to read your comments and experiences about faculty to student bullying.
Take care and stay connected.
To sign up for my anti-bullying mailing list, click here.