Overcoming Bullying as a Nurse
By Liliane de Vries
Bullying in the medical field is a pervasive force, significantly impacting the quality of life for most nurses. In fact, estimates of nurses affected by bullying reach as high 85%. A study carried out by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center shows that almost 60% of new nurses leave their first position within six months due to some form of verbal abuse or harsh treatment from a coworker. This troubling reality is cause for major concern, but managers rarely act unprompted or even have the tools to understand the extent of the issue.
The wide-reaching effects of bullying shaped my experience as a nurse as well as a coach. I learned early on that taking steps to gain control over the situation is key to overcoming bullying in the workplace.
The Royal College of Nursing suggests a four step approach to combat bullying at work. This involves:
- Sharing your experience with the people you trust (family, friends, coworkers, etc.) to understand the extent of your problem.
- Maintaining a record to provide a detailed account of incidents (omit patient names & only use initials for coworkers).
- Reviewing employer policies on bullying and harassment to identify if incidents qualify as an infraction.
- Exploring actions to resolve bullying, such as requesting support from a coworker or manager, respectfully speaking to the offending party, etc.
If you have been affected by bullying at work, I strongly encourage you to look into the Royal College of Nursing page.
How coaching can help: tackling the systemic causes
Nurses are more likely to be bullied by their peers rather than management, giving rise to the phrase “Nurses Eat Their Young”. Today’s challenge is to transform the culture into “Nurses SUPPORT Their Young”. Coaching helps change a difficult working environment into a space of shared understanding for new and seasoned nurses.
Get together and talk
Communication is my favourite tool to improve relationships in the workplace, and it’s also one of the most effective. With facilitated coaching sessions, young nurses, RNPs, RNs, and managers can get together, clearly express frustrations, and listen to each other in a safe, controlled environment. In many cases, nurses’ frustrations are a result of external sources, and honest discussion can reveal common concerns, breaking down the “Us vs. Them” mentality.
Coaching sessions should reinforce and ingrain accountability into the team dynamic. Team members are more understanding of each other and their role in work culture when acknowledging their impact on an individual level. Coaches offer an invaluable opportunity to direct the conversation and help nurses discover a sense of ownership of their actions, which is often lacking in the workplace.
Celebrate the culture of support
Celebrating a culture of support in the workplace is a great avenue to improve relationships by spotlighting the value that seasoned nurses bring to the table. My experience as a coach has emphasised the importance of coming together by appreciating our differences. Nurses Support Their Young campaign is the embodiment of this, inspiring a new generation of nurses through inclusion.
At ALIVE in Healthcare, we acknowledge the importance of working from the top down so that nurses and frontline staff feel supported by their leaders. We need to do more for our nurses and realize they are often the first impression of an organization. Would you like to continue the conversation?
Discover our Nursing Leadership Circles or book a free call with me.