Understanding Workplace Bullying

Have you experienced bullying or violence in the workplace?

Many people might not entirely grasp or understand the concept of bullying and/or violence in the workplace. Many might just think it’s an inconsequential or counterfactual subject. Many might even dare to say that it doesn’t happen in the workplace, but I’m here to inform you that it indeed does and very commonly in the nursing community. The American Nurses Association recognizes that bullying in the workplace is a serious issue and reports that between 18% and 31% of nurses have experienced bullying behavior at work. Before we can talk about workplace bullying or workplace violence, we first have to understand the definition of the two. The question then becomes, how can we overcome this worldwide occurrence?

Workplace bullying according to the joint commission, “is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators. Bullying is abusive conduct that takes one or more of the following forms: Verbal abuse, threatening, intimidating or humiliating behaviors (including nonverbal), work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.” According to uslegal.com, “Workplace violence is an act of aggression, physical assault, or threatening behavior that occurs in a work setting and causes physical or emotional harm to customers, coworkers, or managers.” A study done by Vessey et al (2009) found that bullying most often occurred in medical surgical care units (23%), critical care units (18%), emergency area (12%), operating room/ PACU (9%), and obstetric care units (7%), perpetrators being senior nurses (24%), nurse managers (14%) etc.

I’ve been in multiple situations where my superiors felt as though I felt that I was above them or made them look bad, only because I decided to further my education and obtain a Family Nurse Practitioner education and license, which I worked extremely hard for. It was a very difficult and rigorous program to go through to say the least. An article by Vessey et al. (2009) reported that individuals who hold an advanced degree are at greater risk for workplace violence from more experienced nurses who may be resentful of their advanced educational preparation.

I had people say I was moving too fast (referring to furthering my education), say I felt as though I was better than them, say the devil is after me and much more. I had lies told about me and say I did things wrong in the care of my patients, which was totally untrue. I had other occurrences where I was told to watch my back. Thank God, I had a few great co-workers that were there for me and would inform of anything negative that was occurring or being said about me. This permitted me to be even more careful of my surroundings. It is absolutely frustrating when your there to work and have multiple other things occurring in your life and unprofessional individuals decide to make your life a living nightmare.

I’ve had nurses crying to me in regard to nurses that bullied them or yelled at them rather than speak in a caring and professional manner. I’ve witnessed nurses bullying other nurses to the point where they had to transfer to a different unit. I also had nurses speak to me privately about being afraid or annoyed by their fellow co-workers. THIS MUST END SOMEWHERE AT SOME POINT! The problem is, it is swept under the rug and nurses rather not speak up because they are afraid that nothing will get done or they might make matters worse or even afraid that human resources will get involved. Luckily for me I started my nursing career in an institution that takes their nurses, their safety as well as their ideas and feelings very seriously and from there I learned how to deal with and overcome workplace bullying. With the help and advice from my family, friends, and fiancé, the three best Fs one can ask for, I was able to overcome workplace bullying. Another thing that helped me was my faith!

As an over comer of workplace bullying myself and from many discussions with my fellow co-workers and other nurses from different institutions, I learned that this is an occurrence that is happening over and over, worldwide. Bullying in the workplace poses a threat to patient safety. Bullying interferes with collaboration and communication. According to an article called, “Break the Bullying Cycle,” by Terri Townsend, “Nurses who’ve been bullied feel isolated from coworkers; they’re reluctant to ask questions and afraid to speak up to advocate for patients. High nurse turnover jeopardizes continuity on the unit, and may leave nurses without adequate experience or knowledge to recognize and act quickly on potential patient problems.”

This topic is a very sensitive subject and many may not want to engage in this discussion, however this is something that does in fact go on and is in need of further discussion. I believe there should be a policy written in every institution that identifies and educates all team members on exactly what workplace bullying or workplace violence is and how to further eliminate the behavior. The Joint Commission publicized a new leadership standard to address disruptive and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace. I can only speak from a nursing stand point, which is why I am solely focused on nursing alone. I cannot speak for other career fields, but please don’t be misled that workplace bullying is unique to nursing.

If you are in a situation where you are being bullied by fellow nurses, managers, supervisors, doctors or specialist, I am here to tell you do not be afraid or discouraged to speak up. Contact your nursing manager, supervisor and union representative and deal with it head on. In nursing, we say if you did not document it, it wasn’t done, so remember this, if not anything I’ve previously discussed, if you do not say anything, and then it wasn’t done! One of our goals in nursing is to care for our patients in a safe, healthy working environment and we can do that if we end workplace bullying and/or workplace violence. Nursing is a profession that abides by a code of ethics; however, we have to be more self-aware that this code of ethics also applies to one another.

#speakup #saysomething #thisendshere #thisendsnow #stopworkplacebullyinginnursing

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