Nurse bullying is a serious problem that compromises the quality of patient care, decreases job satisfaction among nurses, and contributes to a loss of productivity overall. In order to deal with this issue, professionals in this field must understand why bullying occurs and take the necessary steps to prevent it.
About Bullying in the Nursing Profession
Bullying is all too common in the field of nursing. In fact, according to the American Nurses Association, “50% have experienced verbal or non-verbal aggression from a peer.” The problem is so pervasive that back-stabbing is becoming widespread among nurses.
Although some may see the bullying of new nurses as a "rite of passage" that must be endured, it can have a number of serious consequences. For example, nurses who are bullied are more likely to feel isolated, which can lead to depression. According to Nursing World, bullied nurses may also develop stress-related illnesses, and they may be afraid to go to work. To prevent these issues, both policymakers and nurses need to take steps to address bullying in the workplace.
Suggestions for Policymakers
Policymakers can address the issues of nurse bullying by implementing the suggestions below:
- Educate Nurses: Incidences of bullying can be decreased by educating nurses with regard to the effects of bullying on themselves and others. Nurses should be reminded that bullying is not acceptable behavior and will not be tolerated.
- Teach Coping Skills: Because all instances of bullying cannot be prevented, employers and educators should provide new nurses with the skills they need to deal with bullying. Rather than responding to the bully with submission or anger, bullied nurses should be taught to confront perpetrators calmly and assertively.
- Implement Anti-Bullying Policies: The Joint Commission recommends that all employers implement zero-tolerance anti-bullying policies that encourage nurses to report instances of bullying immediately without fear of retribution.
- Remind Nurses of Policies Regularly: After anti-bullying policies have been developed and implemented, employers should make an effort to remind all nurses of the provisions and requirements of the policy on a regular basis. Any violations of anti-bullying policies should be dealt with appropriately to ensure compliance in the future.
- Provide Support: Even with all of the best preventative measures in place, bullying may still occur. Employers should provide nurses who have been bullied with resources for support, such as access to counseling and educational materials.
Tips for Nurses
Most nurses will deal with the issue of bullying at least once during their careers. However, as a nurse, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of bullying and prevent any incidents from affecting the quality of patient care:
- Start Preparing Early: If possible, nurses should begin preparing themselves to deal with bullying before they graduate from nursing school. If you are in school working towards your Masters of Science in Nursing or beginning your first day of nursing school, talk to your instructors about the issue of bullying so you can begin developing your coping skills.
- Practice Confrontation in a Safe Environment: The Advance Healthcare Network recommends cognitive rehearsal, or role-playing, as an effective technique for preparing to deal with bullies. This technique allows you to practice responding to bullies and develop some coping skills before you have to face bullying in the workplace.
- Be Aware of Workplace Policies: When you begin a new job, take the time to learn about the employer's policies with regard to bullying. If you become a victim of bullying, report the incident in accordance with the policy.
- Reach Out for Support: If your life or job is affected by bullying, actively seek support. Talk to other nurses, visit a counselor or speak to your employer before the problem gets worse.
- Support Other Nurses: In all of your work-related endeavors, always try to support other nurses. Be a team player, and don't criticize others unnecessarily. When dealing with a bully, try to facilitate cooperation and teamwork for the good of patient care without backing down or submitting to the bully.
Preventative measures and preparation are the best weapons nurses and their employers have against nurse bullying. By utilizing these tips and suggestions, both employers and nurses can reduce the incidences of bullying, prevent complications from bullying, and ensure the quality of the care patients receive.