May 25th, 2010

Guest blog: Bullying and Nurses

Destructive Workplace Behaviors and Turnover in Nursing by Cheryl Painter, MBA/HCM/NHCE, BSHA, PhD candidate, published in the Arizona Healthcare Executives, Spring 2009.

Destructive workplace behaviors contribute to the inability to retain nurses in the healthcare environment because of the stress associated with these behaviors. Briles (2003) defined the problem of destructive workplace behavior as “working manners, habits, and styles that can directly and negatively affect the bottom line of a unit, department, and the entire organization” (Red Ink Behavior section 2).

These destructive workplace behaviors cause targeted employees to experience serious physical and psychological damage (Rowe & Sherlock, 2005), resulting in negative aspects of the EVLN model, which consists of exit – leaving employment, voice – verbal threats of retaliation, loyalty – entrapment by the organization, and neglect – willful negligence to work duties.  The resulting organizational decline costs the healthcare organization both time in retraining new employees and money to mitigate the effects of EVLN.

Considering the nursing shortage and the increasing demand for healthcare services, strategies need implemented to improve satisfaction, increase motivation, augment productivity, and improve retention to ensure safe and quality healthcare. The cause and mitigation of these destructive behaviors are illustrated by presenting a background of various aspects of cultural liability in the current nurse environment and are validated by examining three studies that address lateral/horizontal hostility as well as the supervisor or management’s roles in recognizing and addressing abuse.

Lateral Hostility

Destructive workplace behaviors consist of demeaning, abusive, and hostile communications or actions among employees. Lateral hostility or disruptive behavior among or between coworkers is prominent within the nursing profession. A survey conducted by Alspach (2007) revealed that “25% to 32% of … critical care RNs reported only fair or poor quality of interactions with peers…, especially in relation to respect and verbal abuse” (p. 10). Nurses described various forms of verbal abuse or bullying as blatant or subtle communication that caused emotional distress using words or tone as well as intimidating, threatening, or patronizing mannerisms.

Some examples of individual workplace bullying include, but are not limited to sabotaging, engaging in the silent treatment, spreading rumors, devaluing a peer, discounting input, or fault-finding.  The resulting behaviors are manifested in the EVLN model. Individual workplace bullying, “manifested by one RN toward another, represents system and cultural issues, symptoms of an emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically toxic and oppressive environment” (Alspach, 2007, p. 11). Individual or lateral destructive workplace behavior has deep seated origins. Frustrations with working conditions may cause some nurses to redirect hostile behaviors toward other nurses. Another viewpoint proclaimed bullying type behavior emerges from power struggles, leadership styles, and organizational conditions. Furthermore, some believe lateral destructive workplace behaviors are learned from the existing organizational culture.

Horizontal Hostility

Horizontal hostility involves conflict or destructive workplace behavior by group members toward other individuals outside the group or toward group members themselves as a means of conformity. Another definition of horizontal violence is groupthink. Capella University (2005) defined groupthink as a “phenomenon in which the norm for consensus overrides the realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action” (p.217). Groupthink or mobbing emulates the concepts of horizontal violence in which an oppressive leader, who has attained a degree of status, causes oppressed group behavior. The oppressor attains the ability to control others to achieve self-serving goals in a way that humiliates or denigrates the self-esteem of those on his or her hit list and creates a toxic work environment.

Culture as a Liability

The toxic workplace environment created by dysfunctional aspects of internal and external influences creates “a culture as a liability” (Capella University, 2005, p. 491). Cultural liability is amplified when nurses experience burnout because of heavy workloads and lack of recognition. The most pressing trends that contribute to destructive workplace behaviors and foster toxic healthcare work environments include an increasing nurse workload because of an aging and growing population, increasing age of the registered nurse workforce and nurse faculty, increasing turnover of nurses, decreasing enrollment in nursing schools, and cost-cutting pressures of managed care (Jorgensen-Huston, 2003). The increased job stress associated with heavy workloads is amplified and turnover is increased when nurse managers, physicians, patient family members, patients, or coworkers fail to recognize nurses for good performance and impose abusive interactions.

The lack of recognition coupled with decreased job satisfaction intensifies destructive workplace behaviors, increases turnover, affects patient outcomes, and amplifies costs to the organization.

The cost to replace a staff nurse was 1.2 to 1.3 times that of a nurse’s average annual salary. High vacancy and turnover rates can adversely affect patient outcomes due to the loss of experienced staff and increased stress on the remaining nurses whose already heavy workload increases to overcome the effect of vacancies. (Texas Center for Nurse Workforce Studies, 2006, p.2)

Therefore, the goal for healthcare leaders is to mitigate the effects of destructive workplace behaviors causing the toxic work environment by creating a healthy work environment that supports the nurse.

Culture as an Asset

In a healthy workplace environment, nurses thrive because of increased morale, increased job satisfaction, and decreased turnover. “The environment in which RNs work is an essential issue in their job satisfaction and turnover…. and a healthy work environment is the base for recruiting and retaining nurses and ultimately for providing optimal care for patients…” (Ulrich, Lavandero, Hart, Woods, Leggett, & Taylor, 2006, p. 46). Hospitals that have achieved Magnet Status – best practices in nursing – have high satisfaction, low turnover, and optimized nurse-to-patient ratios.

Factors that contribute to Magnet Status include nurse autonomy and control over his or her working environment and effective/respectful communication among nurses, physicians, team members, and management.

The American College of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) recognized the issue of hostile or destructive workplace behaviors, mandated a zero tolerance for abuse policy, and identified some components in a healthy workplace environment to include collaborative communication; mutual respect; competent nursing leadership; protection from physical, verbal, and emotional abuse; influence and control over practice; professional development; and recognition.

Despite the AACN policy for zero tolerance for abuse, an open – online survey reported over “9000 instances” (Ulrich et al., 2006, p.54) of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.  Nurse leaders must strive to create healthy work environments; however, as evidence from the survey results more research is needed to address destructive workplace behaviors of nurses, groups of nurses, coworkers, leadership or physicians, and clients. The following studies will explore the phenomena of destructive nurse workplace behaviors and will identify potential causes and solutions to the problem.

Rosenstein’s Study

Nurses cite physician abuse as one of the major reasons they resign. “…disruptive physician behavior refers to any inappropriate behavior, confrontation, or conflict, ranging from verbal abuse, to physical and sexual harassment….; two-thirds of nurses say they [have] been abused by physicians at least once every two to three months…” (Rosenstein, 2002, p.27). To determine the relationship between nurse turnover and abusive physician relationships as well as divergent views amongst nurses, physicians, and administration, Rosenstein (2002) administered the Nurse-Physician Relationship Survey.

The most striking finding in the survey indicated that 92.5% or 1,089 respondents have seen physicians abusing nurses (Rosenstein, 2002). The most frequent forms of abuse witnessed include physicians yelling at and berating nurses. Nurses feared retribution and believed they received minimal administrative support when physician abuse occurred. Abusive physician behavior toward nurses does increase turnover; the survey indicated that 30.7% of the respondents have either quit or witnessed another nurse quitting because of hostile physician behaviors.

Although respondents did not concur on the best approach, the most cited solutions were collaboration and communication, education and training, open forums and group discussions, and greater accountability for both nurses and physicians (Rosenstein, 2002). Accountability could be enforced by using a professional’s code of ethics, reporting abusive behaviors to the ethics committees, and establishing a zero tolerance for abuse policies as recommended by the AACN.

Rowe and Sherlock’s Study

Rowe and Sherlock’s (2005) study explored the frequencies, types, and effects of verbal abuse experienced between nurses. Based on previous studies, nurses are an oppressed group that displays characteristics of occupational burnout that turns the oppressed into the oppressor. Bullying is both psychological and physically damaging and has a direct influence on job satisfaction, morale, and retention. Victims report feelings to include, but not limited to isolation, lower self-esteem, rejection, powerlessness, uselessness, depression, and hopelessness (Rowe & Sherlock, 2005). Frequent verbal abuse with the accompanying psychological and physiological manifestations causes nurses to accept or perpetuate the destructive behavior or resign.

The results of the survey indicated that verbal abuse does occur both laterally and horizontally between nurses, but also from other sources such as physicians, patients, patient family members, and ancillary staff. The most prominent source for verbal abuse is lateral hostility between nurses (Rowe & Sherlock, 2005). The most frequent types of abuse were hostile, judgmental, and critical communications. Nurses reported both constructive and unconstructive coping behaviors ranging from clarification by dealing directly with the abusive nurse to using silence, calling in sick, complaining about the work environment, or resigning.

The recommendation to mitigate verbal abuse and its effects centers on practice management. Using creative morale building strategies is a start to change destructive workplace behaviors. One way to improve morale is to get nurses involved in decisions involving policies and procedures (Rowe & Sherlock, 2005). Empowerment is a strong motivating factor. When nurses are involved, organizational commitment and positive organizational behaviors increase. In addition to empowerment, a nurse’s morale is increased by enforcing a zero abuse policy, encouraging nurses to report abuse, and educating staff on destructive workplace behaviors.

Yildirim, Yildirim, and Timucin’s Study

Yildirim’s et al (2007) study explored mobbing or groupthink type behavior among nurse faculty in Turkey. The psychological terror of mobbing begins when a group of individuals single out one or more victims and attack their “honor, honesty, reliability, and professional ability…” (p. 447).  The various attitudes and behaviors of the oppressors create a type of “psychological violence” (p. 447) that frightens, excludes, isolates, and delays a victim from accessing organizational resources that enforce his or her rights. Mobbing is becoming more prevalent among nurses in a variety of healthcare and education environments and has devastating physical and psychological effects on victims.  Various responses to mobbing include, but are not limited to fatigue, stress, headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide, unexplained fears, insomnia, loss of appetite, heart palpitations, depression, weight gain or loss, neglect of work duties, absenteeism, and turnover.

Yildirim’s et al. (2007) study revealed that 91% of nursing staff who took part in the study had experienced mob type behavior and 26.6% of nursing staff experienced mobbing behavior two times a week on the average. “The most frequent forms of [mobbing] behaviors included attacks on personal status (85%) and attacks on personality (82%)…” (p. 451).  In addition to the aforementioned responses to mobbing listed in the description of the authors’ study, victims of mobbing experienced mistrust of coworkers, continuance organizational commitment, and retaliation toward other nurses. The coping mechanism most used in a mobbing situation was the victim working harder and becoming better organized to avoid criticism. Other nurses assumed a proactive approach by confronting the abusers directly and trying to work out a resolution. Fifty percent of those that experienced mobbing reported that they resigned their position.

Healthcare leaders, nurse managers, nurse educators, and nursing staff need to become more aware of mobbing behavior through formal educational forums. The extreme negative implications of destructive workplace behavior such as mobbing create long-lasting psychological consequences for the victim. Yildirim et al (2007) suggested that mobbing behavior be prosecuted as a felony. Policies and procedures, such as the zero tolerance for abuse policy recommended by the AACN, should be enforced and abusive behaviors should be reported. To avoid fear or apprehension in reporting abuse, the authors suggested forming a committee of nurses who have witnessed or experienced mobbing behavior.


In conclusion, destructive workplace behavior among nurses is a very real and serious phenomenon that affects the health of the victims, the bottom line of the healthcare organization, and the quality of outcomes for patients. By examining the nurses’ culture as a liability, one can appreciate how both internal and external factors contribute to these dysfunctional behaviors. In a healthy workplace environment, nurses thrive because of increased morale, increased job satisfaction, and decreased turnover. What are the differences in these two environments? The answer is empowerment, recognition, trust, autonomy, communication, professional development, respect, and accountability. The three studies emulated the components of both a healthy and toxic workplace and revealed issues that involved lateral, horizontal, and institutional response to abusive behavior. A common theme in the three studies and the nurses’ current work environment is the importance of job satisfaction in the retention of nurses.


Alspach, G. (2007). Critical care nurses: Are our intentions nice or nasty? Critical Care Nurse, 27(3), 10-14.

Briles, J. (2003). Zapping conflict in the healthcare workplace. Denver, CO: Mile High Press, Ltd.

Capella University (2005). OM: 8004: Managing and organizing people (An Edited Work). Boston, Prentice Hill Custom Publishing.

Jorgensen Huston, C. (2003). Quality health care in an era of limited resources: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 18(4), 1-12.

Rosenstein, A. (2002). Nurse–physician relationships: Impact on nurse satisfaction and retention. American Journal of Nursing, 102(6), 26-34.

Rowe, M. & Sherlock, H. (2005). Stress and verbal abuse in nursing: Do burned- out nurses eat their young? Journal of Nursing Management, 13, 242-248.

Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies. (2006, September). The economic impact of the nursing shortage. E-Publication # 25-12515.

Ulrich, B., Lavandero, R., Hart, K., Woods, D., Leggett, J. & Taylor, D. (2006). Critical care nurses’ work environments: A baseline status report. Critical Care Nurse, 26(5), 46-56.

Yildirim, D., Yildirim, A., & Timucin, A. (2007). Mobbing behaviors encountered by nurse teaching staff. Nursing Ethics, 14(4), 447-461.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 12:35 pm and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. This is the best article I have seen on workplace bullying in nursing. I am a nurse who was the victim of severe mobbing behavior with complex PTSD who also ended up with contact with corrupt state officials and a corrupt court system. They have done all kinds of awful things to me. It is time nurses got some help. Where I worked they mobbed most new nurses out within a few months. I stayed because I had a contract for two years and they the worst nurses and doctors I have ever seen in my life. I was hoping to be a role model. After twenty months I had a psychotic break and did something in a suicide attempt that got me arrested. The corrupt court system is a second source of bullying trauma for me. If I knew what I know now when I went to college to become a nurse, I would certainly have not become an RN. I had the ability to do anything I wanted. I wanted to help people. I did not want to be destroyed in the process.

    • David Czuba says:

      I agree. As an experienced instructor with a local career college, I’ve seen this organizational behavior before in many firms, not merely nursing. What amazes me about the blog is the timely reference of analytical studies. This kind of quality writing is scarce these days, but pertinent. I will engage my students in a discussion about this topic. They need to know the superiority attitudes, the cliques, the dumbing down of important procedures to fit the ‘real world’, and the coercion to conform. Great post.

      • Cheryl Painter says:

        I believe education about this phenomenon is desperately needed. The Joint Commission has mandated education regarding “disruptive workplace behavior” in the healthcare environment because patient safety is becoming a concern. However, enforcement and acknowledgment of the issue seem to be absent.

        I believe employee safety is becoming a major concern as well. As a victim of workplace bullying or disruptive workplace behavior, I suffer from PTSD. When illness forced me out of the nursing profession, I decided to pursue a solution to this problem by educating myself.

        My dissertation will have a workplace bully focus on autocratic and lassie fare bosses and those targets viewed as “weak.” I am finding many targets are those who have personal issues,family issues, personal illness, etc… I have also found that many targets are those who go above and beyond. These people are targeted because they pose some sort of threat to another go-getter.

        Great discussion!
        Cheryl Painter

  2. “I had the ability to do anything I wanted. I wanted to help people. I did not want to be destroyed in the process.”

    Very true statement about nurses. Many nurses are sincere in their jobs aiming and wanting only to cure patients and help them to be healed from various diseases however it is really a fact that there are so many abused happening on nurses whether from his or her colleagues, patients and patients family and especially on ER department and female nurses. Great article eh!

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      I believe the sincerity that nurses have in caring for patients is exactly what makes them targets! Empathic people are often viewed as weak….. I personally view empathetic people as emotionally superior! In my experience working in a CVICU [a high acuity unit], many nurses were more logical thinkers. I witnessed nurses who demonstrated a caring and empathetic demeanor called stupid and treated in demoralizing ways. One article I read suggested targets of bullying be taught assertiveness skills and the logical thinkers be taught emotional intelligence skills!

  3. Leonard Nolt says:

    This is a fine article about bullying and mobbing in health care. Although it focuses on nurses, my experience in a similar setting was as a respiratory therapist. The last 2.5 years I worked at St. Alphonsus Med. Cen. in Boise, ID, I was the target of a female co-worker bully, a therapist in the same department. I was diagnosed by my employer with PTSD as a result of the psychological abuse. Even though there was no question about the cause of the PTSD, the dept. manager still scheduled me to work with the bully! Nor was I offered, by management, any treatment for the PTSD. For a medical center that calls itself the place where “advanced healing” occurs, refusing to protect an injured employee from additional injury, and refusing to provide treatment is a grave dereliction of duty.
    This article reminds us that those who are bullied and mobbed are seriously injured, both psychologicaly and physically. Although I left St. Alphonsus in 2006 I still have nightmares about working there and being bullied. I had one just last night. Other symptoms of PTSD still haunt me and I have to work at keeping healthy and keeping the hounds of PTSD at a distance. This is much more difficult when one’s employer refuses to acknowledge that there was a problem and refuses to respond appropriately to the injury. J. Herman in “Trauma and Recovery” writes: “Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends, first, upon public acknowledgement of the traumatic event, and, second, upon some form of community action.” The chief response I received from management was orders to not talk about the bullying or the injury, and threats of termination if I did talk about it! I appreciate the suggestion that mobbing behavior be prosecuted as a felony. Psychological abuse should carry the same penalties as sexual and physical abuse. I know some still question the seriousness of the problem, but no one who has been bullied, or who knows a war veteran with PTSD, has any questions about the destructiveness of workplace bullying. An article in the July/August 2006 issue of Monitor on Psychology reports that victims of bullying had higher PTSD stress scores than soldiers who had just returned from a war zone. Now 4 years after I left St Alphonsus management there has refused to be accountable, to address the problem in an ethical manner. They’ve refused to even acknowledge that I was injured even though the diagnosis of PTSD was made by their professionals. There has been no credible apology from those responsible. They refuse to even sit down with me and a mediator to discuss what happened and why, in order to prevent others from being injured. And others are being injured there. I talked to two people a few months ago who confirmed that the problem is an ongoing one at St. Alphonsus. My empathy goes out to others including you, Celia. Take good care of yourself. If you want to read more about my experience check my blog under the heading “Workplace Psychological Abuse.” Thanks again for the article.
    Leonard Nolt

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      Hi Leonard,

      Thank you for sharing your blog. I am so sorry you had to experience such treatment. I to suffer from PTSD. I was diagnosed as an Insulin Dependent Diabetic after an autoimmune reaction from the flu. I was diagnosed at the beginning of a 12 hour shift – blood sugar close to 600. I had to care for a fresh, post-op open-heart patient, on a balloon pump, needing multiple blood products, and on multiple vasoactive drips. No replacement was found for me – I had to work the entire 12 hour shift. This not only put the patient in jeopardy, but me as well. I was admitted to the ER after my shift and officially diagnosed as a IDDM – c-peptide confirmed. Needless to say, I had a very difficult time controlling my sugars and I had to use Family Medical Leave. I was treated horrible when I called off. The worst I was treated the more unstable my sugars became….. i ended up leaving the field of nursing.

      Emotional Intelligence is lacking..accountability is lacking..compassion is lacking…

      Cheryl Painter

  4. Carol says:

    I had to leave a job I loved recently. I loved the work but did not like the Mafia Troika who sabotaged me, demeaned me and spread false rumors about me. I worked for a huge southern medical center and could not get any help from HR, my supervisor, my director or the CNO. Two of the troika were RN’s and the third was a unit clerk. It was unbearable and I couldn’t take it any more after almost four years. I am now working for a home health company and things are much better. I do miss the job I had before. I don’t know how they get away with this stuff. The sacred cows remain at the job and as far as I know, nothing has been done about their bullying. The problem arose when one of the sacred cows had wanted the job I was hired for. She quickly enlisted the aid of the two others. This was worse than the mean girls in high school and two of us are in our sixties. It is just pitiful how people can get away with this stuff. I did not sue because I had too much stress and didn’t want to be put through the mill against a huge corporation. I feel we do need to ban together because divided, this will never cease.

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      Hi Carol,

      It seems that women bully women more than women bully men! I wonder if women still have something to prove….trying to outdo each other in climbing the ladder of success….and still more intimidated by men??? Reminds me of Machiavellian type behavior in which one is willing to throw all morals aside in an attempt to succeed.

      I am researching a company called BeautiControl. The company specializes in spa quality products and cosmetics. The way the organization is structured promotes a positive organizational culture which supports the consultants. In supporting the other consultants, it helps advance the team leader!

      I decided to participate in the program and I am very pleased. The company’s organizational culture and teamwork seem to nullify the aspects of disruptive workplace behavior or workplace bullying! My webpage so you can check it out:

      Cheryl Painter

  5. alliegirl says:

    Hospital workers are definitely bullied by incompetent administrators…. anyone who begs to differ, is obviously one of “them”

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      I believe the issue of workplace bullying lies with the managers and administrators!!! Without education, mitigation, accountability, compassion, emotional intelligence, and personal integrity, the problem with workplace incivility will be difficult to conquer!

      Cheryl Painter

  6. It Starts Here says:

    I work in a health care education environment and believe me our students are conditioned early and often to engage in mobbing, bullying and abusive behavior. Our student population is inner-city for the most part (from one of the poorest per capita metro areas in the country). They have very few higher education opportunities available to them. Many of our kids have had a hard scrabble life and most are financially vulnerable. Their facial expressions are often openly hostile and their body language often aggressive. Many appear to have almost pathological authoritarian personalities. I am a 62 year old male victim of what I call “startle” attacks. I meet students and staff, in otherwise empty hallways and staircases, at blind intersections constantly and daily. It’s like a COINTELPRO, non-consensual human asymmetrical gauntlet run every time I leave the office. Like someone is running the Stanford prison tests again. Smashing out of classroom doors as I pass by and violation of personal space are continuous. Everyone from administration, faculty and staff enters the same side of the door I exit from. I practice normal behaviors like walking on the right side of the hall and entering and exiting through the right side door. That normality is not observed at our institution of higher learning, rather most people walk toward me on (their) left side of the hall and will even try to squeeze between my right arm and the wall. It all seems to be about triggering a “startle” or fight/flight reaction (to avoid a potential collision). Since I work in a health care education institution I assume the resulting adrenalin rush to the heart is not unanticipated. Sweet, huh? All very scientific and necessary for the greater good I’m sure. You see we educate our health care professionals to first do harm. Watch out for them, they’re coming to a health care facility near you. God help your patients when they are left alone with these kids after visiting hours.

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      Although the Joint Commission has mandated education and a zero tolerance policy, I do not see how this will help if it is not enforced in the school system. The way the nursing education is structured seems to put potential nurses in the fight or flight response from the beginning!

      I believe a course specifically related to workplace bullying, incivility, disruptive workplace behavior etc… should be mandated in all nursing and business schools.

      Targets need to know why they are targeted and what they can do to stop the abuse.

      Some things that made me a target is my go- getter attitude and working above and beyond (this made me a threat to other go-getters), sharing too much personal information, illness, empathy, not reporting abuse, reporting abuse [both had negative ramifications].

      Awareness and accountability are needed!

      Cheryl Painter

      • MJ says:

        The institution I work at has not done any education on workplace bullying. My boss supposedly did her dissertation in workplace bullying. Right now she is playing codependant and not standing up for what is normal treatment of an employee. It is costing her dollars in her budget, I’ve been silenced as a negative thing happens to me every time I stand up for myself.

      • Cheryl Painter says:

        Check out the Joint commisson Mandates on disruptive behavior!

  7. Greg Sorozan says:

    Very well done article. I’ve emailed it to my neice, who is an RN and unhappy at her work because of management expectations and bullying treatment. She has asked me for help in bringing in a union.I’ve provided her with that information, as well.

  8. Dr Malcolm Lewis says:

    Well done. If Cheryl would like to contact me I would be happy to share some of my insights on nurse bullying in the UK with her; which I undertook for my PhD.

    Dr Malcolm Lewis
    School of Public Health and Clinical Sciences
    University of Central Lancashire

    01772 893405

  9. […] is growing recognition of workplace bullying in the nursing profession.  Cheryl Painter’s article about bullying and turnover among nurses captures the problem (some citations omitted): […]

  10. Cheryl Painter says:

    RN Fighting the Dragon stated, “Leaving one to believe, it is not just nurses that EAT their own, it is a pervasive culture of arrogant, self-centeredness and lusting for greed and power that is out of control in America and particularly overt in Nursing! Shortage of nurses is real…..wonder why? Sadly, with the failing economy, there are people entering the ranks that like the money and job security but who do not have a heart for nursing, some are losers and only make problems with their narcissistic attitudes and gross immaturity, where in they enter the field with not an intention to serve and learn, but to economically rape and pillage the ranks of nursing, abusing and bullying whomever they perceive might threaten their objectives.”

    This is a huge concern! I view nursing as a calling. However, people are entering nursing now for the vast financial incentives being offered to attract more nurses to the field.

    As an educator, I believe the way one learns determines the types of careers best suited to that individual. For example, divide the brain into four segments [Neethings Brain Model] – upper left is the logical thinker [statisticians, doctors, nurses in acute areas, scientists, etc…]; upper right is the imaginative or holistic thinker [artists, fashion designers, transformational or charismatic leaders, etc…], lower right is the empathetic thinker [nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors etc…]; and the lower left are sequential thinkers [transactional leaders (by the book), accountants, hygienists etc…

    When looking at career choices and learning styles, it is easy to see why certain career fields fit best with certain learning styles. Emotional Intelligence is absent in left brained thinkers. I believe upper right brain thinkers can see the whole picture and can learn emotional intelligence. Right lower brained individuals get emotional intelligence, but I hypothesize they are the ones most targeted by bullys.

    Nurses in acute care areas are normally logical or sequential thinkers – thus lacking empathy according to the model. Nurses who are in the profession to truly help people fall into the right lower quadrant and thus have all the traits to become a target of a bully.

    I believe this theory is worth further investigation!!!!!!

    Cheryl Painter

  11. Kelly says:

    Excellent article.

    My complete frustration lies in the fact the ZERO TOLERANCE policy implemented by Joint Commission includes not allowing such environments and bullying.

    Management is NOT doing a very job at following this policy. Perhaps more nurses need to be contacting JC and having the policy enforced. This is a very real issue which can be very detrimental to a person and, affect teamwork, which, ultimately DOES affect patient care.

    Management seems to bow down to every other policy which Joint implements. What happened with reinforcing and making KNOWN this one as well??

    • Cheryl Painter says:

      Hi Kelly,

      I would love to hear your stories! I will be interviewing people for my dissertation within 6 months. Would love to interview you!

      I believe the brunt of the solution lies with management. Management creates the organizational culture by the way he/she leads. However, this same environment needs monitored and requires mitigation w/ accountability.

      My PhD will be in Organizational Management – Management Education. This is the area I hope to make a difference!!!!

  12. RNICU says:

    Very good article! I work in a busy ICU, and I do enjoy my job quite a bit. I hate, absolutely hate, where I work. The bullying actually takes place from the top down. Our nurse manager is the bully, has no “emotional intelligence” whatsoever. The environment she has created is so toxic, that staff are afraid to report any mistakes. We all chafe under the heavy burden she has placed upon us. She micromanages every step we make. She yells at staff loud enough to be heard down the hall. Our turnover on the unit is incredibly high, most of our staff are travelers! She insists we all join committees to make the unit a better place for patients and staff, but all our suggestions are completely discarded. It’s just a waste of time. I’ve told people on the Beacon committee (it’s a Magnet type of designation for ICU’s) that what they are doing is a waste of time, until things on the unit change. The “Beacon Journey?” It’s a joke. And I am not the only one who feels so cynical, so sick to death of the place.

    Whew!! Thinking about this brings up some sore spots. I could type pages and pages of what is going on at our ICU. Needless to say, I’m looking at applying to another hospital in the city, but I need to find out if the environment there is just as bad, if not worse, than ours.

  13. Ishita says:

    Nowadays a lot of people are victim of different harassment. Sexual harassment blocked our mental health also.

  14. […] Originally Posted by andywire The working conditions need to improve so they can alleviate the frighteningly low retention rate. People pour out of the profession just as fast as people enter it. For everything that nurses do, they are expected to deal with some of the worst working conditions in my opinion. Injuries are common, and the conditions can be downright dangerous. Muscular-skeletal injuries are much more prevalent than people realize. Aside from this, they do not get the respect they deserve. Sure, people may think it's a cool gig, but that's about it. At the end of the day, they are the front line between the doctor and the angry families, and cases of physical abuse are much more common than people realize. They are treated with no respect, and few realize how much stress they must deal with every day. Tell me, who wants to go to college for 4 years for this? Once people see what it is really like, many feel it simply is not worth it and move on to something else. This is why I have all the respect in the world for seasoned nurses… You all rock, but I sure couldn't do it I regularly read the postings on the Workplace Bullying Institute website, and according to them, nurses also are among the most bullied professions. Guest blog: Bullying and Nurses […]

  15. babynurse says:

    I would like to say that I myself have a bully for a charge nurse and is so much so that I have finally gotten to the point that I fear going to a job I love. I speak with my director and she states I should just sit down with her in her office and talk. I politely declined and informed her that in any and every situation she (the bully) will always be right. She butts heads with other staff and Doctors. Many have lost jobs as a result of her wrath. I did talk with someone with corporate and she advised me to file it formerly and that from what I’m telling her the whole “sandbox approach” will not work with her type. She is rude to all coworkers and Dr.s alike. She is rude to patients. She again is ALWAYS right. She micromanages everyone (including dr.s and administration). She has made it her job to make administration to believe that they can not do without her. I fear going the corporate route for fear of retaliation and loosing my job. I have seen over the yrs what she does to those who cross her in any way. A while ago I would say I was not gonna’ leave because that would mean she would WIN. Now after our most resent altercation I’m thinking it’s about SURVIVAL! I love my job and do not know how long I can survive. I’ve had things thrown at me, I’ve been degraded and cussed at. It’s like she will all but beat the hell out of me one day or two or three and then be all nice like nothing ever happened. By then I’m shell shocked and post traumatic. To me from what I have read about nurse bullying, this does not seem to fit what I have been reading. Maybe there is another word or book for what I have been experiencing that past couple years. As time goes by it gets worse and I’m afraid of her literally going postal on me one day. 🙁

  16. Peggy Berry says:

    Bullying in healthcare was cited as one of the five main reasons nurses leave their place of employment. Some nurses never go back. The fact that nurses are bullied needs to keep in the news, front and center, so we can work in a better environment, free from bullying. If you don’t talk about it, nothing is done.

  17. nursing says:

    online nursing school…

    […]Guest blog: Bullying and Nurses | WBI[…]…

  18. Carrie says:

    Great article! Bullying is worldwide and will always be there because of unsympathetic human behaviors and selfish minds. This subject should be also brought up as a violation of the nurse workforce’s rights as to be able to work and evolve in a free harassment environment. It takes healthcare management back to revised the simple rules of Respects that employees ought to show to each others and to their patients in order to be able to sustain free harassment environment workplaces. One good thing to be the bullied is that you can’t be in that state all your life. But a bully has a big chance to stay forever one either he/she was born like that or is incapable to confront outcomes is a peaceful way as much with itself than with the others.

  19. […] have shown that workplace bullying within the nursing profession leads to higher rates of turnover and many […]

  20. […] have shown that workplace bullying within the nursing profession leads to higher rates of turnover and many […]

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