“Nurses eat their young, you know?”
This was the rationale and comfort provided to me when I first sought mentorship from a senior nurse about the poor treatment I was receiving from my nursing peers as a new nurse. I was a victim of nurse bullying, and the solution that was suggested to me was to endure it. It was just a part of the hazing process of new nurses. “This too shall pass,” after all. Like so many nurses who came before me, I was expected to endure poor treatment simply because that’s the way it’s always been.
I disagreed and began sharing resources and materials to help nurses address the distressing instances of lateral violence that plague the nursing profession so that one day, we might have a bully-free nursing future.
This article will delve into the complex issue of nurse bullying, also known as lateral violence, within the nursing profession. We will explore its prevalence, causes, and profound effects on individuals and the healthcare system. Through personal narratives, expert insights, and actionable strategies, we aim to shed light on this pressing concern, empower nurses to confront bullying situations, and advocate for a more respectful and supportive workplace culture in healthcare.
- Understanding Nurse Bullying
- Personal Experiences, Case Studies, and Examples
- Causes and Contributing Factors
- Effects of Bullying on Nurses and the Profession
- Why Don't They Teach Nursing Students About Nurse Bullying?
- Nurse Bullying Resources & Support Systems
- Actionable Advice and Preventative Strategies
- Community Engagement and Discussions
- Putting it All Together
Understanding Nurse Bullying
Nurse bullying, often referred to as lateral violence or horizontal hostility, is a disturbing phenomenon within the healthcare sector. It encompasses a range of behaviors, from overt aggression to subtle forms of intimidation among nursing staff. Historically, this issue has been shrouded in silence, with early instances likely underreported due to healthcare institutions’ hierarchical and traditionally authoritative structure.
The issue’s evolution has seen increased awareness and research, shedding light on its prevalence and impact. Studies indicate that a significant proportion of nurses have experienced bullying at some point in their careers. This is not just a problem for individuals; it resonates throughout the healthcare system, affecting team dynamics, patient care, and staff retention rates.
The impact of nurse bullying is profound, leading to emotional distress, decreased job satisfaction, and in some cases, nurses leaving the profession. It also has a ripple effect on patient care, as bullied nurses may be less engaged or able to perform at their best. The acknowledgment of nurse bullying as a critical issue in healthcare has led to the development of policies and strategies to create healthier, more supportive work environments.
Various Terms Describing Bullying in the Nursing Profession
The phenomenon of nurse bullying takes many forms and goes by many names. While the severity and complexity of the terms below may vary, they all describe some nurse bullying or hostile work environment.
- Lateral Violence
- Horizontal Hostility
- Workplace Hostility
- Nurse Bullying
- Nurses Eating Their Young
- Interpersonal Aggression
- Professional Incivility
- Workplace Harassment
- Occupational Bullying
- Peer-to-Peer Abuse
- Psychosocial Hazard
- Toxic Nursing Environment
Personal Experiences, Case Studies, and Examples
Addressing bullying in nursing is thus crucial for the well-being of individual nurses but also for the overall health of the healthcare system.
Nurse bullying is not just a theoretical issue; it’s a real problem with tangible impacts. It’s possible you have experienced lateral violence but don’t know what to call it. Some examples outlining ways nurse bullies attack can be helpful to ensure you’re not gaslighting yourself about your experience. This critical contemporary issue in nursing manifests in various forms, as depicted through personal experiences and case studies:
- Initial Shock and Isolation: Fresh out of nursing school, I faced an unexpected and harsh reality. Instead of finding a supportive team, I encountered isolation and hostility from my colleagues. This hampered my professional growth and deeply impacted my mental well-being.
- Social Exclusion: A fellow nurse, newly qualified, faced deliberate social exclusion. This isolation by colleagues during critical times like lunch breaks led to feelings of alienation and professional inadequacy.
- Information Withholding: In another instance, critical information was intentionally withheld from a new team member. Such sabotage compromises patient care and undermines the nurse’s confidence and credibility.
- Inaction from Management: A common thread in these experiences is the lack of support from management. Complaints about bullying behaviors are often dismissed or ignored, further entrenching the problem and contributing to a culture of silence and fear.
- Escalation to Threats: Extreme cases involve outright threats and professional sabotage. For standing up against bullying, nurses have faced punitive actions, such as shift changes, loss of benefits, and public humiliation.
Nurses Eat Their Young
I was just out of nursing school and didn’t have any resources to help me with my bullies.
It started with just one nurse. That nurse made it her goal to turn others against me. She would call me stupid in front of doctors, go behind me, and look through my charts to locate mistakes, and she even tried to get my patients to say I was doing a bad job. Then she was able to get the other nurses in on it. I learned all too quickly the truth in the statement that nurses eat their young.
I was learning why 60% of nurses quit their first job within the first year. Lateral violence was very real! However, I was stubborn. I was going to stick it out, and I endured the torture for several years.
I did try to better my situation. I documented everything, including every comment, insult, and every threat. I followed the chain of command and also documented those conversations.
Lateral Violence is Personal
These personal stories illustrate the multi-faceted and severe impact of nurse bullying, underscoring the need for effective interventions and a supportive workplace culture.
The Hardest Lunch Break I’ve Ever Taken
Everyone has a story of their defining moment when they realize just how bad their bullying has become. Mine came while taking a much-needed lunch break. It was common for the main bully and her friends to go to lunch first. I would have to wait until they all returned before taking my lunch break.
One day, I was ready to take my lunch break before anyone else, so I went. I was sitting in the break room with two tables. The other nurses would file in one by one to take their break. One by one, they all sat at the other table until it was full. Eventually, a fifth nurse walked in, grabbed a chair from the table I was at, and pushed it over to the other table. The five of them ate together, leaving me to eat alone. This was the moment I realized they had all turned against me.
This spoke volumes and was one of the hardest things I have ever endured as a nurse. In the end, I was forced out of my job.
Causes and Contributing Factors
Nurse bullying is a complex issue influenced by various factors:
- Hierarchical Structures: Traditional hierarchies in healthcare often create power imbalances. Senior staff may exert their authority over juniors, leading to bullying behaviors.
- High-Stress Environments: The demanding nature of nursing, with long hours and emotional strain, can contribute to stress-induced bullying. When under pressure, some individuals may inadvertently or deliberately take out their stress on colleagues.
- Psychological Factors: Individual personality traits and past experiences can influence bullying behavior. For instance, a person who has experienced bullying might become a bully themselves.
- Organizational Culture: A workplace culture that tolerates or overlooks aggressive behavior can foster bullying. If there are no clear policies against bullying or if such policies are not enforced, it creates an environment where bullying can thrive.
- Lack of Training and Awareness: Inadequate training on interpersonal communication and conflict resolution can contribute to bullying. Without the necessary skills to navigate complex interactions, some nurses might resort to bullying.
- Competitive Work Environment: In some cases, the competitive nature of advancement in the nursing field can lead to bullying, as individuals may try to undermine each other to gain an advantage.
Understanding these factors is crucial in addressing and preventing nurse bullying, pointing towards the need for comprehensive strategies that encompass policy changes, education, and cultural shifts within healthcare institutions.
Effects of Bullying on Nurses and the Profession
Bullying in nursing has far-reaching consequences:
- Emotional Impact on Individuals: Victims of bullying often experience stress, anxiety, and depression. This emotional toll can lead to burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and in severe cases, PTSD.
- Professional Consequences: Bullying can hinder professional growth, leading to decreased productivity and engagement. It may also cause some nurses to leave the profession, contributing to staffing shortages.
- Impact on Patient Care: The stress and distraction caused by bullying can impair a nurse’s ability to provide optimal patient care, potentially leading to errors and compromised patient safety.
- Effect on the Nursing Profession: Persistent bullying can tarnish the profession’s image, making it less attractive to potential recruits. It also undermines teamwork and collaboration, essential components of effective healthcare delivery.
Strategies for Individuals and Institutions
Strategies for Individuals Facing Bullying:
- Document Incidents: Keep a record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, and witnesses.
- Seek Support: Utilize available support systems, such as counseling services or peer support groups.
- Assertive Communication: Develop skills in assertive communication to address bullying behavior directly and professionally.
- Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with workplace policies and legal protections against harassment.
Institutional Strategies to Prevent Bullying:
- Clear Anti-Bullying Policies: Establish and enforce clear policies against workplace bullying.
- Training Programs: Implement regular training for staff on recognizing and addressing bullying, emphasizing communication and conflict resolution skills.
- Reporting Mechanisms: Create safe and confidential channels for reporting bullying incidents.
- Cultural Change: Foster a workplace culture that values respect, diversity, and teamwork.
Legal and Ethical Considerations:
- Adherence to Labor Laws: Ensure institutional policies comply with national and state labor laws regarding workplace harassment.
- Ethical Standards: Uphold ethical standards in nursing, which emphasize respect, dignity, and fairness in the workplace.
- Zero-Tolerance Policy: Implement a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, ensuring prompt and appropriate action against such behaviors.
Nurses eat their young. If you’re a nurse and haven’t experienced bullying, you likely know someone who has. When I speak about social media and talk about how my bullying experience lead me to find community and connections with nurses online, I always have nurses who approach me after my talk to confide in me their bullying experiences. This happens without fail. I am thankful to make connections with my audience, but it saddens me that this is often the area that sparks a deeper connection.
Why Don’t They Teach Nursing Students About Nurse Bullying?
No one talked about nurse bullying in nursing school. When I did learn this was a common phenomena, I couldn’t believe that this caring profession would create such hostile work environments. To this day, I still struggle to answer the question: Why do nurses eat their young?
Graduating from nursing school and taking your NCLEX are huge milestones that are also stressful events. Then you finally make it and are actually excited to start your career. I remember being excited to work, eager to learn, and ready to put my newly learned skills to use. And then suddenly because I asked one simple question, I became the target of a nurse bully.
I have often questioned why there is not a class in nursing school to teach us how to combat lateral violence, to address this ever-present phenomena of nurses eating their young, and to teach us how to identify and stop nurse bullies. This is a very real occurrence, and even though most of us weren’t taught about it in nursing school, there are other resources available to us.
Nurse Bullying Resources & Support Systems
Nurse bullying is an alarming issue that affects the well-being and job satisfaction of healthcare professionals across the globe. Addressing this problem requires a multifaceted approach that combines awareness, education, and support systems. Here, we provide a list of resources and support systems that nurses, both victims, and witnesses of bullying can turn to for guidance, information, and assistance.
- “Nurse Bullying: Impact on Nurses’ Health” by Penny A Sauer and Thomas P McCoy
- “Workplace Bullying in Nursing: A Problem That Can’t Be Ignored” by John S Murray
- “Our Own Worst Enemies: The Nurse Bullying Epidemic” by Cole Edmonson and Caroline Zelonka
- “Workplace Bullying Among Nurses: Developing a Model for Intervention” by Judith E Arnetz, Laurie Fitzpatrick, Shelia R Cotten, Christine Jodoin, and Chu-Hsiang Daisy Chang
Websites and Organizations
- American Nurses Association (ANA): The ANA offers resources and support for nurses facing bullying issues, including guidelines on addressing workplace violence.
- National Nurses United (NNU): NNU is a professional organization that advocates for nurses’ rights and offers resources on workplace bullying and safety.
- Nurse.com: Nurse.com provides articles, webinars, and other educational resources to help nurses combat bullying and create a positive work environment.
- Nurse Bullying Support Group on Facebook: This online community offers a safe space for nurses to share their experiences and seek support from others who have faced similar challenges.
Professional Counseling Services and Legal Resources
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): EAPs are often available through employers and can connect nurses with confidential counseling services to address the emotional toll of bullying.
- Legal resources vary by location, but nurses who believe they have been subjected to unlawful workplace harassment or discrimination should consider consulting an employment attorney or contacting their local labor board for guidance.
Addressing nurse bullying is crucial for the well-being of both healthcare professionals and the quality of patient care. These resources and support systems offer valuable assistance and guidance for nurses navigating the challenges of a hostile work environment. By raising awareness and seeking help when needed, nurses can contribute to a healthier and more respectful workplace culture.
Actionable Advice and Preventative Strategies
Addressing nurse bullying necessitates a proactive approach that combines strategies for dealing with bullying situations and creating a supportive work environment. Here, we offer actionable advice and preventative strategies to empower both individuals and healthcare organizations in combatting this pervasive issue.
Tips for Dealing with Bullying Situations
- Speak Up: Don’t suffer in silence if you witness or experience bullying. It’s essential to report the incident to your supervisor, manager, or HR department as per your organization’s policies. Encourage your colleagues to do the same, as collective reporting can lead to more effective interventions.
- Document Incidents: Keep a detailed record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and descriptions of the behavior. This documentation can be invaluable when discussing the issue with superiors or in potential legal proceedings.
- Seek Support: Reach out to colleagues, friends, or family members to share your experiences and emotions. Supportive individuals can provide emotional solace and practical advice.
- Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with labor laws and workplace policies related to bullying and harassment in your jurisdiction. Understanding your rights can empower you to advocate for yourself effectively.
- Utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many organizations offer EAPs that provide confidential counseling services. These programs can be beneficial for managing stress and emotional well-being in the face of workplace bullying.
Techniques for Creating a Supportive Work Environment
- Education and Training: Implement comprehensive anti-bullying training programs for all staff members, emphasizing respectful communication, conflict resolution, and the detrimental effects of bullying on both individuals and patient care.
- Establish Clear Policies: Develop and enforce explicit anti-bullying policies within the organization. Ensure that employees are aware of these policies and the consequences of violating them.
- Promote Open Communication: Encourage open dialogue among staff members, fostering an environment where concerns and grievances can be raised without fear of retaliation. Anonymous reporting mechanisms can also be beneficial.
- Leadership Accountability: Hold leaders and supervisors accountable for addressing bullying incidents promptly and effectively. Leading by example and demonstrating a commitment to a respectful workplace culture is crucial.
- Supportive Resources: Offer access to resources such as counseling services, conflict resolution training, and stress management programs to help employees constructively cope with workplace stress and interpersonal conflicts.
- Regular Surveys and Feedback: Conduct anonymous surveys to gauge the prevalence of bullying and employee satisfaction with the workplace environment. Use the feedback to make continuous improvements.
- Celebrate Positivity: Recognize and celebrate positive behavior and teamwork within the organization. Highlighting and rewarding respectful and supportive actions can reinforce the desired workplace culture.
Addressing nurse bullying is an ongoing process that requires a collective effort from individuals, colleagues, and healthcare organizations. By implementing these actionable strategies and preventative measures, we can work toward fostering a more respectful and supportive work environment, ultimately benefiting nurses’ well-being and patient care quality.
Community Engagement and Discussions
Nurse bullying is a pervasive issue that affects healthcare professionals across the globe, and fostering a sense of community engagement and open discussion is vital in addressing this problem. In this section, we issue a call-to-action for readers to actively participate in sharing their experiences and solutions, emphasizing the importance of building a supportive community among nurses.
Call-to-Action for Readers to Share Experiences and Solutions
- Share Your Story: We encourage nurses to come forward and share their experiences with nurse bullying. By sharing your story, you not only empower yourself but also provide comfort and solidarity to others who may be facing similar challenges.
- Offer Solutions: Do you have insights, strategies, or solutions that have helped you combat nurse bullying or create a more respectful work environment? Share them! Your ideas may inspire positive change in the lives of fellow nurses.
- Participate in Discussions: Engage in discussions about nurse bullying within your workplace, professional organizations, or online forums. The more we talk about this issue, the closer we come to finding effective solutions.
- Support Others: If you witness bullying or notice a colleague struggling with the effects of bullying, offer your support. Sometimes, a simple conversation can make a world of difference to someone in need.
Encourage a Supportive Community Among Nurses
- Online Communities: Explore online platforms and forums dedicated to nursing, where you can connect with fellow nurses and share your experiences. These communities often serve as safe spaces for discussion and support.
- Professional Organizations: Join or become active in professional nursing organizations that prioritize workplace respect and support. These organizations often provide resources, networking opportunities, and a sense of belonging.
- Peer Mentoring: Consider participating in or initiating a peer mentoring program within your workplace. Mentoring relationships can provide guidance, emotional support, and a listening ear.
- Advocacy Groups: Support or get involved with nurse advocacy groups that work to combat nurse bullying and improve workplace conditions. These groups can amplify your voice and efforts.
- Education and Awareness: Stay informed about the latest developments and research on nurse bullying by attending seminars, webinars, and conferences. Being well-informed allows you to contribute more effectively to discussions and solutions.
In conclusion, addressing nurse bullying requires the collective efforts of nurses, healthcare organizations, and the wider community. By actively engaging in discussions, sharing experiences, and offering support and solutions, we can create a nurturing and empowered community of nurses dedicated to promoting respectful and positive workplace environments. Together, we can significantly impact the well-being and professional satisfaction of nurses everywhere.
Putting it All Together
In our exploration of how nurses eat their young -and how you can stop being a victim of nurse bullying and lateral violence we’ve covered crucial aspects:
- Understanding Nurse Bullying: Defining it, its historical context, prevalence, and impact.
- Personal Experiences and Causes: Sharing stories and identifying contributing factors.
- Effects on Nurses and the Profession: Examining the consequences on individuals and patient care.
- Strategies for Individuals and Institutions: Offering practical advice, institutional policies, and ethical considerations.
- Empowerment and Advocacy: Stressing the role of self-advocacy, leadership, and community support.
- Community Engagement: Encouraging readers to share and build a supportive community.
Reiterating the Importance: Nurse bullying is a serious issue affecting well-being and patient care. Addressing it is vital.
Offering Hope: Through unity, sharing, and advocacy, we can transform nursing into a culture of respect and compassion. Together, we can create a brighter future for nursing.