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3 Reasons Why Nurse-Bullying Must Stop

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

We’ve all been a victim of or have witnessed nurse bullying. It is a common occurrence, particularly involving new nurses. You may remember a time when a nurse called you out in front of other fellow nurses for making a mistake. Maybe one nurse even called you ‘stupid’ or something similarly demeaning. Most of us have been a victim of this at some point in our careers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as “physically and/ or psychologically damaging actions that occur in the workplace or while on duty. I use the term “nurse bullying,” but any healthcare personnel can also be a victim of workplace violence.

Nurse bullying has become such an issue that nursing organizations and boards of nursing are taking notice. Soon there will be regulations put in place to prevent nurse bullying and workplace violence. Here are few reasons why nurse bullying is dangerous and unacceptable.

1. It puts patient safety at risk. 

The reason nurse bullying is such a big issue is because it’s endangering not only nursing staff but also patients.

I often encourage new nurses to ask questions. I would rather my trainee ask me a question, rather than assume they already know the answer. New nurses who are afraid of asking questions for fear of feeling subpar, endanger the patients under their care.

For example, a new graduate doesn’t know what metoprolol is but gives it to the patient anyway, instead of questioning his or her preceptor. The patient’s blood pressure before administering the medication is 84/42. Significant harm may come to the patient for taking the medication. The danger could have been avoided, had the student felt comfortable asking her preceptor for guidance. As nurses, our priority should be patient safety.

2. It contributes to the loss of nurses.

Let’s be honest, here. No one wants to work around a degrading co-worker. Unfortunately, we all know one. New nurses many times quit their job within one year of starting work. Often, nurses are the reason for new graduates leaving. This is unacceptable!

Our job is difficult and is made easier by working together with other nurses and staff. Rather than scare the new staff away, take them under your wing. Defend them. Encourage them. Help them. I promise the world would be a happier and a productive place.

3. It’s a vicious cycle that must be stopped. 

Bullying begins with one nurse discouraging another nurse. In turn, that nurse discourages another. An endless, vicious cycle of negativity results. Short staffing is an issue, but nurse bullying will only continue to contribute to staffing shortages.

Nurse-bullying must stop. Each and every nurse has an impact on another. Be positive, nurses. Be encouraging. Let new nurses know that you are there for support and help. Stop eating our young. The world needs more of us, not less.

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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