Nurse Bullying Podcasts
The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently focused on the issue of nurse-to-nurse bullying in the workplace. According to the ANA, studies have found that between 18 and 31 percent of nurses have experienced bullying at all levels of practice. Besides causing individual nurses to suffer physical and emotional abuse, bullying contributes to the nursing shortage by causing some nurses to leave the profession.
In response to the nurse bullying epidemic, the ANA has produced a series of four free podcasts designed to help nurses recognize workplace bullying, identify its causes, and learn more about the responsibilities of employees and employers in terms of bullying response and prevention.
The podcasts feature Nancy Davis, a nurse planner with the ANA Center for Continuing Education and a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas School of Nursing. Highlights of the four-part podcast series include:
The first podcast in the series presents a formal definition of bullying in nursing. The definition includes overt and covert hostility in the workplace, mostly between nursing peers. It may include individual nurses or groups of nurses as either bullies or targets of bullying. Bullying is described as “uncivil and unprofessional” behavior that erodes the work environment and affects patient safety.
The causes of nurse bullying are also discussed in this podcast. Part of the problem is that bullying is ingrained in the culture of some work environments. It is often seen as an initiation or rite of passage for new nurses. One study found that one in three new nurses planned to leave the profession because of the level of intimidation they had been subjected to in their early days on the job. Another cause of nurse bullying is related to oppression theory: Due to the hierarchical nature of the health care profession, many nurses feel powerless and may lash out against their peers to assert power. According to the podcast, other factors that influence bullying include pressures of the work environment.
This podcast looks at the impact of bullying on the individual and the organization. Bullying can have lasting and devastating effects on nurses. Physical effects include headaches, sleep disorders, and other issues; psychological effects, including anxiety, fear, and the erosion of self-confidence, can be equally devastating. These effects have been shown to cause nurses to find a new employer or to leave the nursing profession altogether.
Nancy Davis also describes some of the subtler forms of bullying, including an example that she witnessed as a young nurse. She notes that belittling, ridiculing, withholding information, and other passive-aggressive forms of behavior can be just as harmful as more overtly aggressive behaviors.
This episode of the podcast series asks the question “Why does bullying between nurses keep happening?” and presents facts about the prevalence of bullying. Nancy Davis reports that bullying can occur in any setting where nurses work and that the perpetrators of workplace bullying can represent any professional level, from peers to supervisors. The violence will manifest itself in different ways depending on the level of the bully. The most prevalent form of nurse bullying is referred to as lateral, horizontal, or peer-to-peer bullying. Organizations that are tolerant of these negative behaviors foster a culture of bullying between nursing peers.
The final podcast in the series provides suggestion for reducing and eliminating the culture of horizontal violence (both physical and psychological) between nurses. The most important action that individual nurses can take is to become informed about how bullying is manifested.
Nurses “eat their young” is a familiar saying among nursing professionals. It indicates the lack of mentoring that takes places between experienced and novice nurses. Organizations need to send the message that there is zero tolerance for bullying. This can be done by addressing misbehavior as it occurs and communicating professional expectations to experienced nurses.
The ANA podcast series is available on iTunes and on the ANA website. Nursing professionals can also purchase an ANA publication entitled Bullying in the Workplace: Reversing a Culture, which covers the topic of nurse bullying in detail.