Nurse to nurse bullying is a problem. Nurse bullying is pervasive, destructive, and doesn’t belong in a profession dedicated to caring and compassion. Although nurse bullying is as old as our profession, it appears to be getting worse. Every day of my life a nurse reaches out to me for help and more and more new nurses are quitting due to the bullying behavior of their coworkers. Of the new nurses who quit their first job, 60% cite bullying behavior as the primary reason.
Nursing schools are pumping out a ton of new nurses but if they don’t stay, we are just chasing our tails. To make matters worse, we are starting down the path of yet another nursing shortage. This one is predicted to be worse than the last!
If we want to stop the hemorrhaging of nurses so that we can never again have a nursing shortage (who is going to take care of us when WE get older?), we need to finally put an end to nurse-to-nurse bullying!
A way for every single nurse to do their part is to understand this fact: You are either a target of bullying, a witness to bullying, or you ARE a bully. The question you have to ask yourself is this – which one are you?
Targets, Witnesses, and Nurse Bullies
Knowing which category you are in is a great first step. The second step is to take one action – just one. Whether you are the target, witness, or bully, there are simple things you can do.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE THE TARGET?
Please do not suffer in silence when you don’t have to. 40% of all targets don’t tell anyone. Targets who stay silent suffer the trifecta of physical, emotional, and mental stress. Targets who stay silent end up quitting. Targets who speak up and tell someone are more likely to get the help they need to document, confront, and stop the bullying behavior. Tell someone – anyone!!
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE THE WITNESS?
Speak up and support
Did you know that the most powerful intervention to stop the cycle of bullying is for the WITNESS to speak up – not the target? Tell the bully that what she is doing is wrong and that you will speak up whenever you witness ANY bullying behavior that undermines teamwork or a culture of respect and patient safety. After you’ve spoken up to the bully, then go and support the target. Let him/her talk about the experience and offer your continued support.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE THE BULLY?
Apologize and ask for help
Every time I conduct an anti-bullying seminar or give a keynote presentation about bullying, at least one person confides in me that they think they might be the bully. Bravo!!! Self-awareness is the first step. Apologize to anyone you think you’ve harmed and then ask your boss for help.
Nursing is a wonderful profession. We get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people every single day we walk into work. The public loves and trusts us. However, we MUST get control of nurse-to-nurse bullying if we are going to continue making a difference in the lives of our patients AND current and future nurses.
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