As a nurse, I’ve seen my share of nurse bullying and physician incivility. The undermining, condescension, gossip, backstabbing, and refusing to help,
Nurse Bully Profile Series: Super Nurse
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Michelle 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.
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.