Nurse Bully Profile Series: The Bitter Nurse

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been profiling some of the most common types of bully nurses to help nurses clearly identify common behaviors that some nurse bullies display AND to take action against them. We’ve discuss the following nurse bully profiles:

The Super Nurse
The Sorority Nurse
• and, The Deadly Viper Nurse

The Bitter Nurse is the last nurse bully profile we will explore.

Nurse Bully Profile Series: The Bitter Nurse

Lynn won the Daisy Award and was so excited!! It was a great honor to win this award at her hospital. Her manager made a big deal about it by announcing Lynn’s award at the staff meeting, bringing her flowers and a cake and putting a big congratulations sign on the unit. Lynn felt so honored. Shortly after the announcement, Lynn started to notice that any time Susan was in charge, she seemed to get the worst assignments – patients in isolation, the ones with the difficult family members, etc. Although Susan was friendly to Lynn, she found out Susan was talking about her behind her back. One of Lynn’s co-workers even overheard Susan say that since Lynn won that “big shot award”, she should be able to handle the worst patients.

Lynn became the target of a Bitter Nurse.

The Bitter Nurse Bully is green with envy. This bully downplays everyone else’s accomplishments, never recognizes anyone’s success, and thinks awards are just stupid. The Bitter Nurse is hell-bent on not letting anyone get anything over on him or her, not even patients.

A Bitter Nurse frequently has to “one-up” each conversation, always having a last word or a more remarkable story than everyone else’s. Although a Bitter Nurse may brag a bit like Super Nurse, this bully’s primary mode of operation is to negate your accomplishments, not necessarily to promote his or hers. They accomplish this either overtly (in your face) or covertly (behind your back).

Bitter Nurse


Sometimes the Bitter Nurse will actually challenge your accomplishments in front of others, going so far as to make light of or fun of them. The Bitter Nurse may openly criticize and try to humiliate you if you receive any awards or accolades. “You got your certification? So what? You just wasted your time and money.”

On the other hand, you might find out from others that the Bitter Nurse has been gossiping about you and secreting sabotaging you. If she is in charge, you might get the worst assignments. If the Bitter Nurse is on the scheduling committee, all of a sudden your requests for time off get denied, etc.


1. Name their behavior

Whether they are overtly downplaying your accomplishments or secreting sabotaging you, once you know, name it. For example, Lynn could have said to Susan, “Susan. I’m not sure you realize this but ever since I won the Daisy Award, when you’re in charge, I’ve been getting the worst assignments. Can we talk about this?” If the Bitter Nurse says directly to you, “Why are you going back to school (or getting certified), it’s a complete waste of your time…” Look the Bitter Nurse in the eye and say, “I’ll respect your decisions as long as you respect mine.”

2. Document

Once you know the Bitter Nurse has targeted you, remember to start a documentation trail. Documenting helps you to gather your facts so that you can use them to confront her (this is the 3rd time in a row that when you’ve been in charge, I’ve been assigned all of the patients in isolation) and to formally file a complaint if it reaches that point.

3. Understand and show compassion

Many Bitter Nurses act this way because YOUR accomplishments make them feel bad about themselves. Showing a Bitter Nurse compassion and understanding is NOT justifying their behavior. It’s role modeling professional behavior to them and everyone else. Perhaps over coffee or while in the break room you can engage in conversation with the Bitter Nurse about HER accomplishments and skills. Just simply complimenting the Bitter Nurse (sincerely) on something they’ve done can influence them to stop their bitter ways.

Chances are you have met one or more of the four classic types of bullies described in this blog series in your work environment. Of course, no one is a pure “type,” and some of the behaviors overlap. It is the ability to recognize the behaviors; both overt and covert that will allow you to respond to a bully attack effectively, no matter what the bully profile.

ReneeThompson_013_HRThanks so much for reading my blog. If you like this post, I recommend the following:

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I’d love to read your comments about nurse bullying.

Take care and stay connected!


If you are a new nurse and want help to bully-proof yourself at work, make sure you check out my new Nurse Bully-Proofing Online Program.

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