January 30th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Clinic Nurse

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I am a nurse practitioner and have been working at a clinic for the past 3 years. The nurse at the clinic was never helpful from the beginning. She the begin to tell patients that I was not going to be there much longer and would book them with another provider. I had three patients tell me that she had talked to them about me in a negative way. She then proceeded to audit my charts and go to the physician in the clinic telling the physician that I was not providing the appropriate care for the patients. None of this was founded and there was no action taken but it caused (and continues) to cause me distress at work. She now talks about me to other coworkers and stops talking when I walk in the room. I have tried to ignore this behavior but lately she has raised her voice at me in front of other staff. She has now stopped giving me new patients (she is also the office manager) and my production is down.

I hate to go to work now and have actually experienced health problems due to the stress. I walk on eggshells at work knowing that she is watching my every move. I have gone to the physician and we had a meeting telling us to “all get along” but basically she is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. The supervising clinic manager goes along with the physician and the physician tells her that everything has been worked out. I have not been to Human Resources yet but they have not been known to be helpful. I cannot quit this job due to a recent relocation and my husband is currently unemployed and in school. We send out patient surveys and mine have always been very good. I would love to just go to work and continue to do a good job but this person is affecting my work life and my home life. I literally get physically sick on the night before going in to work again. I never knew that someone could be allowed to continue this abusive behavior and would like to know if there is any recourse available.


Dear Julie,

As a nurse practitioner you are experiencing workplace bullying from your clinic’s nurse/office manager which has gone on now for three years. The nurse/office manager is talking about you behind your back, badmouthing you to patients, talking to your supervisors about your work, and not referring new patients to you.  You also mention that your production is down as a result of not having new patients referred to you.

The patient surveys have indicated that you are a good worker.  If you had been performing badly, the surveys would indicate that.  Generally, patients and their families don’t hold back criticism if the patient or a loved one has been treated badly while under medical care.


When we hear the words “first, do no harm” we think of doctors and health professionals.  The Free Dictionary/Medical Dictionary defines “first, do no harm” taken from Segen’s Medical Dictionary, “Primum Non Nocere which is Latin for ‘first, do no harm’.  A guiding principal for physicians that, whatever the intervention or procedure, the patient’s well-being is the primary consideration.”


“Do no harm” is a concept that if extended into the workplace, in general, might make the working world a bit more hospitable.  We should be working in the spirit of doing good vs. doing harm to others.  It shouldn’t mean that one can do harm as long as one doesn’t get caught which seems to be the modus operandi of bullies.


Patients and their families expect that they or their loved ones will be treated with care and dignity.  Patients do not need to hear the rantings of an unprofessional worker who complains about a co-worker during their office visit or while under medical care.  The clinic’s nurse/office manager is showing extremely unprofessional behavior.  If he/she has issue with you, this should be discussed in private behind closed doors.


I would encourage you to document each incident of concern.  Keep your documentation at home.  Note the date/time, location, what was said or observed to the best of your memory.  Do not tell your co-workers or anyone at work that you are keeping documentation.  Write down the names of patients who have reported to you that the nurse/office manager has been saying bad things about you.


At this time, there is no point in going to the Human Resources (HR) office if the clinic physician and the supervising clinic manager have ignored your complaints, the issue will only be bounced back to them.  However, it is your call whether to involve HR in your matter.   Here is what research has told us about HR:

In 2007, the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) commissioned Zogby International  who surveyed 7,740 U.S. workers and found that 62 percent of employers ignore the problem of workplace bullying when it is reported to them.

In a 2012 WBI survey of 1,598 respondents, the effectiveness of various strategies adopted by bullied targets was assessed.  One question asked if bullied targets filed a formal complaint with HR alleging a policy violation — 42.8% of respondents said they did so. In only 4.7% of cases, HR was considered effective.

Using WBI’s Instant Poll single-question methodology on the website after the aforementioned survey (2012), WBI asked 372 respondents (98% of whom self-declared themselves as targets of bullying):  “How effective was HR at resolving a workplace bullying complaint in which there was no illegal discrimination (no sexual harassment, no racial discrimination)?” The responses:

  • 37.3% said that HR actions were not helpful to the target and retaliation followed
  • 30.9% said that HR did nothing, took no action
  • 18.2% said that HR actions were not helpful to the target, job was lost
  • 11.5% said HR was not told
  • 1.9% said HR stopped the bullying fairly and completely for the target, justice was achieved
  • Reference:  http://www.workplacebullying.org/wbiresearch/wbistudies/

Be professional, do not bad mouth the nurse/office manager to your co-workers.  Be pleasant to all your co-workers.  Be professional and kind to your patients.  Do not interrogate the patients about what the nurse/office manager may have said about you to the patient. Limit your responses to patients who tell you things that the nurse/office manager has said about you. The patients should not be involved with your workplace issues with the nurse/office manager.  If the patients really like you, they will ask for you by name.  If the nurse/office manager raises her voice to you or becomes angry with you, tell her in a soft voice that you are going to walk away and then do so.  Do not engage her.  Maintain your equanimity.  Do not let your patients see you angry or upset.  What people will hear, see, and remember is the person who raised their voice.

You say, “I cannot quit this job due to a recent relocation, and my husband is currently unemployed and in school.” If you stay at this job, you are acknowledging that the job isn’t perfect.  You will have to find a way to get through each day.  By making plans for your future, knowing that the job you are currently in is only temporary may give you a more positive outlook.  You can be planning your exit on your own terms.  The exit doesn’t have to be immediate. You can be looking for another job.  You can be taking classes on a part-time basis that will expand/enhance your skills which will also count towards your continuing education requirement for your nursing license.   You might consider volunteering with your local Red Cross which could be a job reference in the future.   Say to yourself : “This is only a temporary job, and when my husband is finished with his education we will be moving on.” 

If your health is being affected by the job, please see your doctor for a thorough health exam.  You can ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional who will help you to cope with what is happening to you at work.  Each person is different on how the person handles stress.  Some people are more resilient than others.  Do not use your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), instead use your regular health insurance plan to avoid the EAP adviser who may share your personal information with the employer who contracts out for EAP services. 

Do you have legal recourse?  It would be best to discuss this with an employment and labor attorney that works with employees only.  Workplace bullying is not against the law in the United States.  Do you feel that your race/color, disability, age, religion, etc., are a factor in the way you have been treated?  Have you suffered from any adverse employment action or change in the terms and conditions of your employment, i.e., salary reduction, reduction of hours, demotion, layoff, termination, etc.?  If so, discuss these issues with an attorney.

Maintain your good work ethic.  Your bully is masking her own insecurity by targeting you.  You have done nothing wrong.  Look beyond to your future, and make plans with that future in mind.  My best wishes to you and your husband.




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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 9:00 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. 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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