It’s Time to Stop Nurse Bullying: 3 Steps for Success

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“What would Florence Nightingale say if she saw how horribly nurses treat each other? Would she say, “Well that’s just the way it has always been?” Perhaps she would say that we need to do something about the way nurses treat each other and that our duty, our ethical responsibility, is to eradicate bad behavior as Nightingale eradicated death from poor hygiene (well, almost).

It’s Time to Stop Nurse Bullying: 3 Steps for Success

“Bullying leaves nasty fingerprints on individuals, health-care organizations, the nursing profession, and patients. Its mark is damaging and long lasting.” Do No Harm Applies to Nurses Too!

Did you know that 48% of graduating nurses are concerned that they will become the target of workplace bullying?

That 60% of all new nurses quit their first job within 1 year due to workplace behaviors.

That 78% of all nurses have either witnessed or been the target of nurse bullying.

We have serious problems that require serious solutions.

Many years ago while I was giving a talk on team building, one of the nurses mentioned how horrible some nurses treat other nurses. I remember responding, “Well, that’s just the way it is in nursing.” Really? Did those words actually come out of MY mouth?

The answer is yes. One thing I don’t do is lie even if it’s something I’m embarrassed about.

We all can get numb to way other nurses behave that we just accept it as the norm.

Luckily, I came to my senses and made the decision to STOP accepting and tolerating bad behavior. It’s not okay and we’re not going to take it any more!

But what can we do?

Eliminating nurse bullying requires a commitment from organizations AND from individual employees. Nurses can’t wait for their leaders to solve the problem for them and leaders can’t just bury their heads in the sand hoping the problem will go away on its own!

3 steps for individuals and organizations:

1. Education
Organizations – educate employees on disruptive behaviors and teach them how to respond. Caution: Education can’t be a one-time gig, like a check list. It must be ongoing. I personally recommend quarterly education sessions.

Individuals – if your organization doesn’t provide this type of education, it’s no excuse for you not to obtain the education on your own. There are a plethora of resources available to help individuals cope, address, and eliminate the bad behaviors of their co-workers.

2. Ongoing surveillance – both organizational leaders and individual employees need to be on guard at all times, looking for any indication of bullying behavior. Managers need to be engaging their employees in conversations about behavior; employees need to protect and look out for each other; encourage each other to speak up when experiencing badness. And, individual employees need to feel safe sharing information about disruptive behavior with their leadership team.

3. Robust policies – Organizations need to create living and breathing policies that set high expectations for behavior and swiftly address non-compliance. Although I’ve said numerous times, “policies don’t solve problems – people do” we still need to rely on policies to protect the innocent.

Florence led the way to ending disease caused by uncleanliness and in the process defined the profession of nursing. You can do the same with bullying by no longer accepting “nurses eating their young” as the norm; by learning how to address bad behavior; by speaking up; and by doing whatever it takes to protect anyone who has become a target.

Even if you’ve been passive or accepted bad behavior as the norm (like I did), it’s time that you take a stand against it.

ReneeThompson_013_HRThanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!


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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations who 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

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

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