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Bully Bosses: A New Nurses’ Nightmare

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Having a Bullying Boss Can Be a Nightmare for ANYONE!

Last week, you saw it’s National Bullying Prevention Month. With that in mind, I want to focus on something I hear about all the time from new nurses. It’s a type of bullying that’s treated as a rite of passage. Something you just have to deal with as a novice nurse. Something most new nurses have to deal with.

But there’s nothing normal about it, and it’s certainly not a type of bullying that most novice nurses experience.

So what is it?

It’s bullying by your boss.

Now some of you might be thinking that it’s…well…unthinkable for your nurse manager to bully you. But it’s an unfortunate fact in nursing that new nurses are often targets of bullying bosses. This isn’t something we can ignore, since abusive leadership styles affect more than just the target nurse. They also affect patients, healthcare practices, and even the nursing profession as a whole.

This is a particularly troublesome type of bullying, since there’s often a wall of silence around the issue.

For many reasons, healthcare institutions don’t recognize this problem as often as they should – the bully boss might have worked there for many years, or senior management might protect the bully boss so they don’t get in trouble too.

Instead of thinking you’re alone, you might be one of several new nurses on the unit who are experiencing bullying from your boss. But the environment might be so hostile, you might be afraid to talk about it.

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A recent study that appeared in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed just how damaging bully bosses are for both novice nurses and their patients. In the study, 541 nurses with less than 5 years of experience were surveyed anonymously on the impact of abusive leadership practices at their jobs.

The results were clear: bullying from nurse bosses can lead to poorer quality of patient care and a stronger intention to leave a healthcare facility – and even the nursing profession.

According to one report, the consequences of workplace bullying are severe. Bullied novice nurses experience severe emotional pain.

Here are some signs you might be experiencing a Bullying Boss:

  • You might be suffering from anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.
  • You might have already been labeled as a troublemaker, and you might be left to fend for yourself on the unit, even if you’re swamped with patients.
  • You might have psychosomatic symptoms, like headaches, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, or chronic illnesses.

At it’s worst, nurse boss bullying can even result in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, if the bullying goes on long enough.

Even as you read this and think about your own unique situation, it’s important to realize that you aren’t alone. In my previous post, 3 Steps to Stop a Bullying Boss, I share the story of Jackie and my recommended steps for action in dealing with the bad behavior from her bullying boss.

In another great post, What to Do if the Bully is Your Boss, I outline 5 steps you can take to protect yourself from a bullying boss.  You can also learn more in this  2 Minute Tips for Nurses series from my YouTube channel:

The only way to truly end bullying is identifying the problem and taking steps to stop it – as nurses, we owe it to ourselves!

Renee Thompson

Take care and stay connected —  Renee

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at renee@healthyworkforceinstitute.com to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

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