Maggie transferred from a small town in Virginia to a large hospital in Philadelphia. After a few days on the unit, she noticed that some of the nurses wore headbands. At first, she thought that it was a part of the unit specific uniform so the next time she went to the store, she bought one. After all, she wanted to feel like a part of the team.
As soon as Maggie walked into the staff locker room to put her things away, one of her coworkers (who was also wearing a headband) ran up to her and tore the headband off of her head. She quickly yelled, “Who said you could wear this? WE didn’t give you permission yet!”
Maggie was shocked and embarrassed.
The “headband gang” then tortured Maggie so badly to the point where she quit.
Sorority Nurses uses exclusion as their primary weapons. You’re either in or you’re out. If you’re the new nurse, the rules are typically made clear to you very early in your orientation. “Be nice and obey us or we’ll make your life miser¬able here.” Sorority Nurses can bully without words but with powerful non-verbal signals such as crossing arms, giving the “death stare,” giving you the silent treatment, and walking away while you’re speaking; or Sorority Nurses use symbols such as headbands, barrettes, pins, and colors. Sorority Nurses shows favoritism and only helps the nurses who are “in.”
On units where a number of nurses speak a native language different from the others, Sorority Nurses may use language to create barriers and exclude others. Sorority Nurses may encourage members of the “in” group to communicate using their native language in front of their targets. All it takes is for one of those in the sorority to glance at the target for that person to think the group is talking behind his or her back. Add a laugh or a roll of the eyes, and the target immediately thinks the group is making fun of him or her. Sorority Nurses knows this and uses this covert tactic to make their targets feel excluded.
HOW TO STOP A SORORITY NURSE
1. Individual strategy
Name their behavior and start a documentation trail. When you have enough experiences about their behaviors, file a formal complaint with your manager. You have to help your manager help you. For more details on documentation, click here.
2. Manager strategy
Break up the club. When you KNOW you have a headband gang yet continue to allow them to wear their headbands, you are basically saying that you support the sorority. Schedule a meeting with every member of the sorority. Tell them that from now on, they will not identify themselves by wearing __________. Period.
If they are using powerful non-verbals and covert tactics, schedule a meeting with them and give them a warning. Tell them that you know what they are doing (give examples) and that you WILL NOT TOLERATE unprofessional, gang-like, middle school playground tactics in YOUR professional unit/department. Tell them you will be watching them like a hawk; that you expect more from them as nurses. If they are going to act like children, you will be forced to act like a parent. FYI – get human resources involved early. You will need their support to break up the sorority.
Sorority Nurses exist because we let them. We all have to stop using silence as a strategy! We are hemorrhaging good nurses. Ending the cycle of nurse bullying requires action by individuals and nursing leaders.
Isn’t it time we stop accepting nurse bullying as the norm?
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For more strategies, you may want to read my book, “Do No Harm” Applies to Nurses Too! Strategies to protect and bully-proof yourself at work .
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 working with healthcare and academic organizations to eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.