Ever heard the expression “Nurses Eat Their Young”? Somehow it’s meant to be humorous, though those who’ve experienced that abuse know it’s anything but.
Perhaps you, right now, are a victim of a of bullying from other health care “professionals.” Where can you turn? First, take a look at what Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, the blogger behind thenerdynurse.com, has compiled on the topic.
She has been researching and sharing her findings about the topic ever since experienced nurse-on-nurse bullying during her three years as a floor nurse, many years ago. Now it is one of her areas of expertise.
It’s important to start in the right place on the Nerdy Nurse’s comprehensive site, so you don’t get lost. (It also covers technology topics – thus the name – as well as items of interest in the day-to-day life of nurses, such as the most comfortable shoes for men and women).
My pick for where to begin your research is this post, called “Nurses Eat Their Young: Resources for Lateral Violence” because in it Brittney curates from all over the web and beyond. These are resources that she herself found or that readers submitted to her – all are useful.
You can go to the type of resource that appeals to you: books, scholarly articles, posts from around the blogosphere, discussion forums, and CE credit offerings from professional organizations. And the list of options under each category is not skimpy – I counted 12 articles.
For a detailed resource on lateral violence and nurses, you may want to choose from these three books that Brittney recommends:
Confident Voices: The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces – By Beth Boynton RN MS
Ending nurse-to-nurse hostility: why nurses eat their young and each other- By Kathleen Bartholomew
From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public – Suzanne Gordon & Bernice Buresh
For my money, the personal experience posts on The Nerdy Nurse site itself are the most instructive (she also lists them under their own category). You get a blow-by-blow (excuse the term) account of a young nurse’s life was made a living hell by a group of hostile co-workers, and how she overcame the abuse.
In one blog post (titled “Respect and Dignity”) Brittney gives this overview of her situation – it’s gripping:
“I was being called a liar, incompetent, and made to look a fool. At the most difficult point in my young life, pregnant, postpartum, the death of my mother, and as a new grad nurse, I had this lovely stressful nugget to add to my plate. Everyday I had to make the best of the situation where the other nurses refused to help my patients and I suffered. Unlike many, I did speak up, and often. Yet for fear for the loss of my job, and the livelihood of my family, I kept continuing to go to an unsafe work environment in the hopes that eventually, somehow, it would stop.”
You’ll find a lot of value in reading Brittney’s other posts about how her story twists and turns, first to another shift (away from her tormentors), and then into a new direction — clinical informatics.
How about you – do you have a favorite resource that helps you deal with a hostile work environment? If so, we’d love to hear about it.
Jebra Turner is a health writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.jebra.com.
Many nurses are sensitive to bullying behavior from others in the workplace – fellow nurses, doctors, administrators, and even patients – but not to that of their own. Bully or bullied, it’s no fun to experience a hostile healthcare workplace.
For example, though it’s often said that “nurses eat their young.” Those same recent grads may find themselves more competent in some areas than older nurses, such as being tech-savvy.
They then don’t hesitate to give their elders abuse about discomfort using new technology, say. They may use the impatient, hostile voice, or rude body language (eye rolls?) that they may suffer in their first years on the floor.
Sometimes a nurse can be both a victim and a perpetrator at the same time. Or in different situations. Or with different co-workers. Or on a different shift. Or with a different nurse manager. Or when especially stressed.
It pays to look honestly at how you relate to others in your workplace so that you can stamp out your own bullying behaviors.
Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS, provides a detailed list of bullying behaviors that many experts have identified in A Matter of Respect and Dignity: Bullying in the Nursing Profession on Medscape Nurses, Here’s a short excerpt from that piece:
Refusing to speak to a colleague, being curt, giving the “silent treatment,” or withholding information (setting someone up to fail);
Unwarranted or invalid criticism, excessively monitoring another’s work;
Physical or verbal innuendo or abuse, foul language/swearing;
Raising one’s voice, shouting at or humiliating someone;
Treating someone differently from the rest of the group, social isolation;
Asking inappropriate and/or excessive questions about personal matters or teasing about personal issues;
If any of these behaviors seem familiar because you yourself tend to resort to them, that’s probably an uncomfortable realization. Give yourself credit, though, for admitting to the truth. Now you can go about fixing the problem, because in the final analysis — even bullies don’t like bullies.
Jebra Turner is a health writer in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her at www.jebra.com.
Nurse-on-nurse bullying. Lateral violence. Hostile work environment. These are common terms for what’s sadly a common situation in many health care environments.
If you’re being bullied, it can help to have a “script” that helps you face your harrasser. Peggy Klaus, a Berkeley, California, a leadership and communication coach, has taught courses on difficult conversations for nurses, physicians, and medical students.
Here she offers some recommendations but doesn’t propose a one-size-fits-all solution. “We each have our own level of tolerance,” explains Klaus, “You have to be vigilant and see how it’s affecting you, and how it may be impeding your effectiveness. That’s especially important when you’re working in the crucial role of a nurse.”
1. Talk to your supervisor. Assume that nursing leadership is going to want to be helpful. (Many hospitals are anxious to put a stop to employee-to-employee harassment, if only because it places them at risk for lawsuits, for allowing a hostile workplace or retaliation if they a nurse who has made a formal complaint.)
One possible script from Klaus…
“Have you ever been bullied? What did you do to solve the problem?”(Makes the conversation more personal, and you’ll be more likely to elicit empathy from your supervisor.)
“I’m concerned because If nurses aren’t being collegial, it greatly affects the hospital.” (Don’t emphasize your own distress as much as downsides your supervisor can relate to.)
“Patients don’t get the kind of care they need, our evaluations as individuals and as a group will suffer. I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem. I would be doing my group a disservice if I didn’t bring this up.”
2. Ignore the bullying. If that’s a possibility for you, you can decide to play along, be civil and respectful, and just go about your business.
“Don’t play low status, though,” says Klaus, “which comes out in verbal and nonverbal behaviors such as having slumped shoulders or ending sentences with an upward inflection as if asking a question or seeking approval.”
3. Confront the bully. Be direct, assertive, and respectful and talk alone in a private, confined space, such as a conference room. Group confrontation doesn’t work, so talk first with the lead bully, and if necessary, repeat with the others.
One possible script from Klaus:
“I’ve recently noticed behavior or signs that you’re trying to bully me and I want it to stop.” (Give a couple of examples and say how it affects you.)
“I really want to work this out between us and not involve higher ups or human resources.”
Ask for the bully’s input and end on a positive, affirming note: “I look forward to working well with you.”
If the behavior changes, but then the bully slips and starts up again, go back and have the conversation again.
“You know, things had gotten better but I noticed that this is increasing and it’s got to stop.”
4. If the bullying doesn’t stop, go higher up the chain of command until you get relief.
Jebra Turner is a health writer in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.jebra.com.
See Our Champions of Nursing Diversity
Sign up now to get your free digital subscription to Minority Nurse