Breaking the Silence: The Effect of Bullying Within Nursing

Once you are out of nursing school and land your first job at a hospital or health care centre, excitement and anticipation are two emotions that you should be feeling, but fear and irritation are not. Unfortunately this may change after you have started your new job, and one reason why this may happen is the issue of bullying in the workplace. Bullying among nurses can also be referred to a lateral abuse, or sometimes horizontal violence, but all these terms basically mean the same thing. It is bullying, whether physical or mental, among nurses and their peers.

If you think that bullying among nurses is not something you really have to worry about, then think again. It is anything but a rare thing among nurses across North America, and the American Nurses Association/Canadian Nurses Association/Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions have some worrying statistics on this subject. Almost half of all nurses and health care professionals who responded to a survey carried out by the association said that they had seen verbal abuse in their workplace. To add to that, 43% of all the nurses who responded to the survey said that they themselves had experienced some kind of threatening body language at work.

What to Look Out For

There can be things big and small to look out for, and some things you might think will not pass for bullying at all. Perhaps you hear a colleague talking behind another’s back about an issue instead of being upfront and talking to the person directly. It could be something like seeing a fellow nurse making faces or raising eyebrows when another colleague makes a comment about something. Even these seemingly trivial things are bullying, and can lead to much more severe types of bullying. The end result could be a nurse refusing to assist a colleague that is bullying them, or carrying out acts of sabotage to land their victim in a bad situation. This type of behavior can be very dangerous within nursing, as it can lead to detrimental effects on patients.

Terrible Effects

The effect that bullying has on nurses and the communication networks between the whole team of nurses at any workplace is terribly detrimental. Individual nurses who are the target of bullying can become depressed, stressed out, and suffer from panic attacks. Lateral violence not only puts the nurse being subject to it at risk, but also damages overall workplace safety/USworkplacesafety. By feeling the effects of bullying, a nurse’s diminished demeanor can then go on to affect the quality of care they provide for their patients. A larger effect can be felt by the health organization as a whole, as nurses begin to feel low morale and productivity drops.

Speaking Out

If you think that this sort of stuff is normal, and just part of progressing through the ranks as a nurse then you are sadly mistaken. While bullying amongst nurses is a problem, it can be dealt with if something is done about it. Don’t stand for bullying in any form, and contact human resources or management as soon as it begins. All health organizations should have strict anti-harassment policies in place so that staff can report violations with confidence and know that something will be done about it. When the health organization you work for does not have these types of policies in place, then you should speak to management about it. If you are still worried about how to deal with a particular instance of bullying, you can find out lots of information about what to do by looking at nursing blogs. If you feel like you are getting no-where, remember that you don’t have to be put in a position you don’t want to be in. If you have no choice but to walk away from a job, don’t be afraid to do it.

Have Some Respect

There will almost always be some people who you work with that you do not get on with, or are just as friendly with as other work colleagues, and this is normal. What is should not be normal is treating anybody you work with less respect that another. As you read earlier, bullying not only breaks down vital lines of communication between nurses, it can also lead to cases of patients feeling the effects too. Bullying should not be accepted in any workplace, and in a nurse’s workplace the effects of bullying can be life threatening. Don’t stand for it, and help everyone to be able to work in a safe and comfortable workplace.

Written by Lisa McCann

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