EP 1: Introducing Coffee Break: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying in Healthcare – One Cup at a Time!


Welcome to Coffee Break: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying in Healthcare – One Cup at a Time!

In this inaugural episode, host Renee Thompson, CEO & Founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute, shares her journey and passion for tackling the long-standing problem of bullying and incivility in healthcare. With 31 years of nursing experience, she emphasizes cultivating a professional and respectful work culture for healthcare professionals. Renee reveals her past struggles as a frontline nurse manager, lacking the necessary tools to address employee behaviors effectively, and highlights the importance of equipping leaders with evidence-based strategies to set behavioral expectations and hold employees accountable. With this podcast, she aims to provide practical solutions for addressing workplace bullying and incivility, inviting guests who have successfully dealt with these issues in their departments.

Tune in and learn how to create healthier work environments by emphasizing the significance of how healthcare professionals treat one another!

About Renee Thompson:

Dr. Renee Thompson is a sought-after speaker, author, consultant, and leading authority on creating healthy workforces by eliminating bullying and incivility. With more than 31 years as a clinical nurse, nurse educator, quality manager, and nurse executive, Dr. Thompson is a leading authority on workplace bullying and incivility and spends the majority of her time working with healthcare leaders who want to cultivate a healthy workforce.

Renee is the CEO and Founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute and has been repeatedly published, interviewed, and awarded for her work to eradicate disruptive behaviors in healthcare. In 2020, Renee was invited by the Joint Commission to become a member of their Workplace Violence Technical Advisory Panel, has been published in numerous nursing journals, and is a frequently invited guest on radio, podcasts, webinars, and online social media platforms.

In 2016, Renee received the Nursing Excellence Award as a nurse entrepreneur to honor her work to eliminate workplace bullying. She received the first Outstanding Nursing Alumni for Excellence in Leadership Award and Distinguished  Alumni recognition from her alma mater and was a finalist in the Healthcare Heroes Awards as a Healthcare Provider. Her blog has won numerous awards as a Top Nursing Blog “must-read” by the online nursing community, and her anti-bullying videos are viewed by healthcare organizations around the world. Renee is one of only 30 nurses in the world who have achieved the prestigious certified speaking professional designation. 

In 2018 she was recognized as one of LinkedIn’s Top Ten Voices in Healthcare for her contribution to their global online healthcare community, and in 2022 was identified as one of the top 5 Nurse Influencers on LinkedIn. Also, in 2022, Renee was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing for her work to eradicate disruptive behaviors in healthcare.

Renee has a Master’s degree in Nursing Education and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Pittsburgh.

About the Healthy Workforce Institute:

The Healthy Workforce Institute is the global leader in addressing disruptive behavior in healthcare. Through our cadre of services, we provide the strategies, skills, and solutions to address any incidences of disruptive behaviors that show up in healthcare.

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Renee Thompson:
Plants thrive and grow in a peaceful, nourished environment, right? Well, it's the same with human beings. But what if that environment is not so peaceful? What if it's toxic? Welcome to Coffee Break: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying in Healthcare – One Cup at a Time. In this podcast, you'll get practical, evidence-based strategies to help you cultivate and sustain a healthy and respectful work culture by tackling an age-old problem in healthcare: bullying and incivility. I am your host, Dr. Renee Thompson.

Renee Thompson:
Well, hello there, and welcome to our very first episode of Coffee Break: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying in Healthcare – One Cup at a Time. I cannot tell you how excited I am to finally launch this podcast because I've been talking about it for, gosh, I swear, four years now, and I finally decided that I was going to put everything aside and launch this podcast because it's needed now more than ever before. So we're going to talk about bullying and incivility and how to tackle this problem in every single episode, but I first wanted to just start with why I got into this, I don't know, topic, situation. Was I bribed? How did I get so involved in addressing bullying and incivility? Well, I will tell you, I've been a nurse for 31 years, and I've done pretty much everything that you can do as a nurse: bedside nursing, I worked in home care, I worked for a managed care company, did some case management, disease case management, utilization, was a quality manager, I was a frontline nurse manager, I was an educator. And then, one point, I ended up in a corporate position responsible for all things related to the student nurse and the new nurse population: preceptors, advanced degrees, certifications, basically professional development across the system. And it was when I was building a nurse residency program, and I was having a lot of conversations with student nurses, new nurses, experienced nurses; and they would tell their stories of how the other nurses treated them, and it reminded me of my own stories. And I realized that, you know what? It didn't matter where I worked. I mean, after 31 years, didn't matter where I worked, what organization I worked for, or what role I had, I swear there was always a group of other nurses who made it their mission to make my life difficult. And I thought, you know, working in healthcare is hard enough without worrying about your coworkers making it harder, and I decided it was pretty much in a moment that I was going to do something about it. You know, enough was enough. We've been talking about bullying and incivility for decades, but what are we doing about it? And that's what I was going to do. I was going to be the person to tackle this age-old problem that we've been dealing with our, you know, our whole lives. And so took a leap of faith, quit a great job that I love, to start a company, and it was really just me speaking about bullying. My primary focus was on nurses because, of course, I'm a nurse, and I really focused on those bedside nurses. And after a couple of years, through conversations, through working with groups, I realized that I can only do so much if I only focus on a nurse. That, where I really needed to focus was on the leaders, because what were the leaders doing to actually address bad behavior in their department? So there was that piece. And then I also realized that it's not just nurses, it's therapists, it's support staff, it's physicians, providers, administrators, you name it. This is the way I look at it. If you have human beings working in your organization, I bet you have a problem. It's not just any one role; it's the entire healthcare team. And so I broadened my focus to really zero in on those leaders, making sure that they were equipped, and we focused on the entire healthcare team, and that's where we are right now. And I have a lot of experience being a leader and not being equipped. So this was many years ago. I took a position as a frontline nurse manager. I was new to leadership, had never been in a leadership role before, and I was new to the organization. I think it was my second day I realized that I made a big mistake because I found out that I was now the manager of a department that had the worst reputation of any department in the entire 700-bed hospital, and I was the sixth manager in six years. Did they tell me that when they interviewed me? No, of course not. And so I decided I was going to tackle this, and I was going to do the best that I could to really start addressing these bad behaviors. The problem was I had no idea what I was doing, and after 14 months, I quit. I was exhausted, and I became manager number seven. And for years, I felt like a failure. You know, well, I guess, I can't be a leader, I guess I'm just not good at it. And that was hard for me because I've always been one of those overachievers. It's not just to get a good score on an exam, I had to have the highest score. Okay, one of those people, and I was devastated by it, you know, that I really felt that I had failed something major. Because I had 100 employees, I failed them, too. And then I got older and wiser, and I realized I wasn't a failure. I'm smart, I can learn, I just wasn't equipped. Because, you see, nobody taught me how to actually address the behaviors of my employees. Nobody equipped me, there was nothing in that organization as far as leadership development to help me tackle these issues. Oh, they taught me how to do the budget, how to do the payroll hours per patient day, all of those things. But nobody told me how to have a conversation with my quote-unquote, best nurse, who was equally toxic during a nursing shortage. You know, nobody taught me how to have those conversations. So I did what was comfortable. I did nothing. And again, for years, felt like a failure. Well, I'm at the point right now that I realize that I never want another leader to feel like a failure like I did, not on my watch. So that's what we do here at the Healthy Workforce Institute. We equip leaders and their teams, because it's not just the leader. It starts with the leader, always starts with the leader, but it's not just the leader. But we equip them with the skills and tools that they need to set behavioral expectations and hold employees accountable for professional conduct so that they can cultivate and sustain a healthy work culture. So that's what you're going to get in this podcast; we're going to talk about practical strategies. I mean, to the point where I will say, save these words to this person, do that. We are all about the practical strategies, not the up in the clouds. You know, just, you know, tell everybody to be honest and respectful with each other. Well, how do you do that? We're going to teach you how to do that. And we're going to have guests, other leaders who have been successful in addressing workplace bullying and incivility in their department. Wait until you hear from some of them. I have learned so much from other leaders out there, and we're hoping that you will also learn from me and you will learn from them. So as we wrap up, I also just want to share with you, people ask me this question too. First of all, is there real coffee in this cup? Yes, there's real coffee in this cup. And why coffee? So we had this YouTube series called Coffee and Conversations about Nurse Bullying, and I would just sit in my living room with a cup of coffee, you know, and we had a conversation about bad behavior. Well, now we've shifted to Coffee Break as a podcast. Why coffee? Well, I've been drinking coffee since I was three years old, I think it might be an Italian thing. And I can remember when I was a little girl, I knew it was going to be a good evening when I would see my mom take that percolator out of the cabinet, put it on the stove, and start making coffee after dinner. That meant one of her girlfriends was coming over, one of the neighbors, or maybe one of her sisters or a family member, or it could have been my Noni, okay, my Italian grandmother, Noni, that I knew they were going to sit in the kitchen, they were going to have coffee and a chit chat. And I remember thinking, I can't wait to grow up because I want to have people over and sit in my kitchen and have coffee and a chit chat. And so when I was doing the Coffee and Conversations video series, I really just pretended that I was sitting in a coffee shop or in my kitchen having a cup of coffee and a conversation about, what can we do to address bad behavior? Well, I feel the same with all of you right now. It's just, we're sitting here having a cup of coffee, having a chit-chat about how we can be part of the solution. And I'm very honored to help you to address that behavior in your organization. And so, as we wrap up, I just want you to remember that, truly, the way we treat each other is just as important as the care that we provide. Thank you for being here.

Renee Thompson:
Thank you for listening to Coffee Break: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying in Healthcare – One Cup at a Time. If you found these practical strategies helpful, we invite you to click the Subscribe button and tune in every other week. For more information about our show and how we work with healthcare organizations to cultivate and sustain a healthy work culture free from bullying and incivility, visit HealthyWorkforceInstitute.com. Until our next cup of coffee, be kind, take care, and stay connected.

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Things You’ll Learn:
  • Addressing bullying and incivility is crucial in healthcare settings to create a peaceful and respectful work environment that positively impacts patient care.
  • Bullying and incivility affect nurses and the entire healthcare team, including therapists, support staff, physicians, and administrators.
  • Equipping leaders with the necessary skills is essential for fostering a positive work culture and effectively addressing and preventing bullying behaviors.
  • The podcast will provide evidence-based and practical strategies for dealing with workplace bullying and incivility, empowering listeners to take actionable steps.
  • Including successful leaders as guests on future episodes will offer valuable insights into how different organizations have effectively tackled bullying and incivility.
  • The podcast will underscore the need for cultural change in healthcare organizations, prioritizing kindness, respect, and effective communication among team members to create a compassionate and supportive work environment.
  • Connect with and follow Renee Thompson on LinkedIn.
  • Follow Healthy Workforce Institute on LinkedIn.
  • Discover the Healthy Workforce Institute Website.
  • The Healthy Workforce Academy: Everything you need to cultivate a healthy work culture Website.
  • Follow the Healthy Workforce Institute on YouTube.

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