Nurse: Are *You* The Bully?

Nurse: Are *You* The Bully?

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;
  • Gossiping, spreading rumors, assigning denigrating nicknames.”

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