Nurses Eating Their Young: Bullying or Hazing?

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bullying, hazing, horizontal violence, vertical violence, rtconnections

48% of graduating nurses are afraid that they’ll become the target of workplace bullying. More than 60% of all new nurses QUIT their first job due to the bad behavior of their co-workers.
If you ask a student or new nurses if they’ve heard the phrase, “nurses eat their young” every single one will say YES.
Katie is a new nurse. Her preceptor, Joanne, an older nurse, tends to be tough on Katie. She gives Katie the toughest patients, doesn’t always step in to help her, even when she sees Katie’s drowning, and Joanne openly criticizes her in front of others.
Is Katie being bullied? Or, is Katie going through “new nurse hazing?” Or, is Joanne being tough on Katie to help her learn?
How do you know the difference?
Bullying is the repeated pattern of destructive behavior with the conscious or unconscious attempt to do harm. For a behavior to be labeled as bullying, it must be repeated. There is also a perceived power gradient involved. For example, a physician may perceive she has more power over a nurse. Likewise, a nurse may perceive he has more power over a nursing assistant and use “power” to harm.
Bullying involves exclusion.
Hazing involves groups or teams. Members of the teams are basically tortured – embarrassed, harassed, and may suffer physical and emotional harm. The intent is to see if the new member is worthy to become a part of the group or team.
Hazing involves inclusion.
Being tough on new nurses to help them learn is a common behavior. Many experienced nurses say they learned how to become a competent nurse by being “thrown to the wolves.” They share stories about receiving only 1 week of orientation on a critical care unit and walking in after 3 weeks to find themselves in charge.
Some nurses actually THINK that by being tough on new nurses, that they are helping them. However, they are wrong.
Studies show that when you are unnecessarily hard on someone during the LEARNING PHASE, they become INcompetent. Being a bit tough on someone to help them grow is okay – just not when they are learning new tasks.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone’s intent is to exclude (bully), include (hazing), or teach (tough in order to help learn). 
Here are a few ways to figure it out:
·      Bullying usually involves an individual, while hazing involves groups.
·      Hazing tends to have a defined period of time; while bullying can go on forever.
·      Nurses who are tough may refer to how they learned. “When I was a new nurse…”
·      Nurses who are tough may say phrases like:
o   “I wanted to see if you could handle it.”
o   “The best way to learn is to jump in feet first!”
o   Nobody helped me and that’s how I learned.
Pay attention to their behaviors and see if you can identify the intent. This will make it easier for you to confront and eliminate!
I’d love to read your comments about this problem.
Thanks for reading. Take care and stay connected!

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