Bullying In Nursing
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Nurses are people, and just like people in other careers, there can be unfair, and unjust actions inflicted on innocent people. Bullying in nursing is a growing concern, and if you have any situations where you are being bullied by another nurse, here are a few ideas that may help you go home at the end of your shift with your head held high instead of in your palms crying, and screaming at the steering wheel that you hate your job.
#1. Look at their point of view.
Steven Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote about this story. A middle aged man was on a train with his kids. The kids were running around, screaming, crying, and getting into other peoples business. One man on the train was getting upset because the father of the kids was just sitting there, not doing anything. Finally the observers patience grew too thin, and he confronted the father, hoping to get the father to take control of his unruly and disrespectful children. The man got the fathers attention and told him what he should do to take care of the kids. The father replied that he was sorry for their behavior, and that they were just returning from the hospital where the children's mother just died. The father explained that he didn't know what to do, and the children don't know how to react to the news.
With this story, the other man on the train had a paradigm shift. He had an impression on why he thought the father was acting a certain way, but when he learned the truth his paradigm, his thought process, changed. As nurses, nurses have perceptions of why nurses act the way they do. If you get to know a nurse for who they are, and try to understand their point of view, you might be able to also have a better understanding of their behavior.
Nurses who are bullies usually have a reason why they are upset. Getting to know the nurses on your unit will help you have a good understanding of why they are acting the way they are, and will help you have an emotional connection to forgiving them. A nurse who is divorced, has to work nights, take care of kids alone, had aspirations to be a nurse practitioner, but now can't go back to school because even working overtime she is still broke, will most likely not be in a good mood while on the job.
#2. Be assertive, and hold your ground.
Nurses who are hard to work with, may have stress and issues at home, and it is good for you to remember these things to help YOU understand why the nurse might be acting so harsh, but this doesn't excuse bullying behavior. You will at least have an understanding of why the nurse is struggling and isn't able to work through emotions very well. You need to be assertive when dealing with a nurse bully. Just understanding why the bully is rude, doesn't mean that you need to just feel sorry for them and let them treat you like trash because they have such a hard life. You also shouldn't go to their level and be aggressive right back. This can cause potential workplace violence, which can lead to your employment being in jeopardy, or legal issues.
Being assertive is having the good balance between passiveness and aggressiveness. Sticking up for yourself in a respectful, and kind way is key to dealing with a nurse bully. Say what you need to say, and if your employer needs to get involved, then the employer needs to get involved. Having to work with HR or your director of nurses over harassment is embarrassment, but you owe it to yourself to be able to go to work and enjoy what you do without being harassed by a nurse bully.
#3. Look for a win win situation.
When there is a bully on your unit that is harassing you, if you let them run you over every shift without you sticking up for yourself, you are losing, and they are winning. If you decide to play their games, or you plot schemes against them and become a passive aggressive coworker, you might win but the other nurse will lose. This might seem like a better option for most people, to just have the annoying bully get fired or transferred to a different unit, but if you can learn how to make a win win out of the situation you will have a synergistic connection with the other nurse who will possibly be your advocate in a different situation rather than creating an enemy.
Working in the healthcare community is really a smaller community than most people think. If you create enemies with coworkers, there are possibilities, even in big cities where you will end up seeing that nurse again, or know someone that works with them. If you leave situation's in a wrong way, you might have to deal with it again later on down the road. It is best if you can find a way where both you and the other nurse can find some common ground, and you can work through your problems. Hopefully, you will not be harassed anymore, and you can do your work without the fear of being threatened by another nurse.
Remember! If you are a victim to abuse, especially if it is physical, or sexual abuse, you need to have people on your side, and you should not try to handle the situation on your own.