Nurse Bully Profile Series: Super Nurse

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Nurse+bullyMichelle has been a nurse in the same hospital, on the same unit, for 30 years. Although the physicians love Michelle, her co-workers dread working with her. Michelle knows everything, is the best at everything, and reminds you and everyone else of this fact every day. She has a bladder made of steel, never has to take a break or go to the bathroom, and thinks you’re weak if you do. “Break? You want a break? I haven’t taken a break, eaten, or peed in 30 years! You’re all pathetic and weak!” Michelle refers to the new nurses as “babies.” “Look at the new babies who just started. I wonder if they’re potty trained yet.”
Nobody is ever good enough or capable enough for Michelle.
 
Armed with knowledge and a quick sharp tongue, Michelle prides herself on being the smartest and most competent nurse in the universe.  The new nurses shudder when they have to give Michelle report. Because it’s during report that Michelle unleashes her sarcastic and unrelenting weapons on her targets.
 
MICHELLE IS A SUPER NURSE

 
Super Nurses always have to save the day. In a crisis situation they tell everyone to get out of the way while they pull out a cape and sword to save the world. Super Nurses never need your help because you are an idiot, or worse yet, a baby nurse. Besides, they can single-handedly take care of all of the patients because Super Nurses are great!
 
Public humiliation, intimidation, yelling, and openly criti­cizing are the primary behaviors used by Super Nurses—all overt and proudly displayed. Even when these nurses employ typically covert behavior, such as rolling their eyes, Super Nurses makes sure their targets and others are watching.
 
STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS SUPER NURSES
In general, Super Nurses ARE knowledgeable and competent. However, when they use their competence to bully others, they prevent that knowledge from being incorporated into patient care. So, use this insight to your advantage.
1.    Name their bullying behaviors
When Super Nurses spew their venom on their targets, their behaviors are typically specific and observable (overt). You can use this understanding and “name it”.  Observe the Super Nurse as he/she interacts with you or others. Identify the behavior and then just name it.
Examples of naming:
“You are yelling at me in front of patients and their families.”
“I just saw you roll your eyes at me.”
“I need your support – not your criticism so that our patients get the care they deserve.”
2.    Ask the Super Nurse clinical questions
This is not about kissing their butts; this is about accessing their knowledge to impact patient care in a positive manner. By doing this, it takes the focus off of belittling everyone else and back to business – caring for patients.
3.    Document their bullying behavior
Start a documentation trail that details objective behaviors and how it impacts patient care. I’ve written a lot about documentation but basically, document dates, times, witnesses; be objective and link behaviors to patient safety concerns.
It’s unfortunate that Super Nurses don’t use their knowledge to support, nurture and mentor their colleagues. But we all know them and how their behavior creates hostile, unprofessional, and toxic workplaces. They either need to stop their bullying ways or leave. To be a great nurse, you need to be clinically competent AND professional. Period.
Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read your comments about this topic!
Take care and stay connected. 

Renee
 
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 helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.

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16 thoughts on “Nurse Bully Profile Series: Super Nurse”

  1. I was just reading a facebook post from a woman who said she was a director of nursing who was bragging about how she loved to turn nurses in to the Board of Nursing. She was such a bully. She berated new grads and the state of nursing education. It's HER job to encourage nurses to make them top notch, skilled, professionals. She's a leader, not a hangman. In my opinion, she's the failure at her job if all her nurses are failing at their job. I spend much of my time improving the new nurses that work with me in a non-confrontational environment so that they can provide care to these complicated patients. My nurses are mostly straight out of nursing school and they try hard. They don't know it all, but with time and guidance they will be good nurses. They don't need to walk on hot coals. Right now they are trying to think through processes. I have to help them through more complex physiology without overwhelming them. Things aren't automatic for them yet. I am very proud of the nurses I work with. Maybe if the DON was a better leader she would have a better staff. When one finger points at someone there's four pointing back.

  2. Oh no T Novotne. That's terrible! To think that a nurse leader would take pride in squashing other nurses is so sad. However, not uncommon. We need more nurses like YOU to support, nurture and help new nurses become the nurses who we want to work with and who we want to care for our families. Thank you so much for commenting and for doing your part to be a role model for professional behavior.
    Kind regards
    Renee

  3. As always I enjoy reading your blog and articles. So very timely for the latest article. I have learned to call things what they are. I am still learning how to tie everything to patient care and patient safety. I'm trying to remember to take the focus off of me and instead be about how it is affecting patients and their safety. Thank you for your gift of writing.

  4. As always I enjoy reading your blog and articles. So very timely for the latest article. I have learned to call things what they are. I am still learning how to tie everything to patient care and patient safety. I'm trying to remember to take the focus off of me and instead be about how it is affecting patients and their safety. Thank you for your gift of writing.

  5. You're welcome Auntmargaret! I'm still a work in progress too and learning more ways to help nurses address and eliminate bullying behavior! We are hemorrhaging really good nurses from our profession due to bullying behavior. So sad!!!

  6. Renee I loved your blog. It opened my eyes to what happens in the clinical area. There are a lot of bullies, matrons, unit managers who thrive on belittling subordinates and students. Its so sad because of using their experience to improve patient care, its wasted because everyone runs away from them. Thank you. I hope I will not turn out to be a bully myself.

  7. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Gladys. I'm doing my part to stop the cycle of bullying – so wrong. It takes a very courageous person to consider that they could display bullying behavior! People who are very self aware and can adapt their behavior are the people who succeed in life!

  8. There are new nurse bullies as well. The new younger nurses can turn on an older seasoned nurse. Excluding them in conversations; not helping the seasoned nurse; asking questions and then go to a younger nurse to check the validity of the answer. I loved the seasoned nurses! I gave them respect. Most of them had forgotten more than I thought I would ever know. When talking to leadership about the problems, they will over look the younger bullies. Until it happens to another younger nurse.

  9. I completed my nursing via the hospital trained apprenticeship and in a small country hospital. There were bullies to the left and right of us especially if they were 1 day or more senior!!. In amongst those bullies there were a couple of older registered nurses who pushed us to question. We were encouraged to question our colleagues, doctors and patients but mostly ourselves. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Could it be done better? I moved to a city hospital to start as a registered nurse and I was the target of one nurse. I figured I had nothing to lose by speaking out so I questioned her as to what was she doing, Why and could it be done better? She avoided me like the plague after that!

  10. I work with a super nurse just like this, but she is not overt in her behaviours but much more subtle, which is just as devastating. It makes it very hard to make a complaint against her as on paper it looks frivolous and she knows this. She is despised across the entire hospital as a known bully and yet, there she is thriving. She is a cancer on our ward which has killed all moral and goodwill. I can’t wait to leave, most days I wish I hadn’t gone into nursing.
    I also think that there are a lot of very nasty young nurses, in my experience, under about 28. They are highly trained and extremely ambitious. Most of them only want to work in the ED as nothing else is sexy enough. They don’t give a stuff about their patients as people and they are nasty bullies towards their co workers. Again tho, all untouchable… It’s a terrible industry.

  11. ive encounted such a traumatic situation to which the bullying went as far as poisioning management telling them negative things about my practicing etc and to managers who dont know me, i have had episodes of sickeness due to two super nurses and not they excluded me for a whole year whilst they changed documents and tried to blame me etc. after a hearing giving all my documented evidence the powers to be said we need to get you back to work as soon as we can. had they tealised this massive inept dealings of me. a whole year on full pay to and higher management tell me about getting back to work??? are they real working under the super nurses managers after what they have put me through.
    all i can say is as indicated in the above article id document everything time date witnesses etc.

  12. Pingback: Nurse Bully Profile Series: The Bitter Nurse - RTConnections

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