Does Your Silence Equal Complicity?
When nurses witness other nurses being bullied, teased, harassed or humiliated by other nurses—or any other health care colleagues, for that matter—not speaking up or defending the person being bullied is essentially complicity with the act of bullying.
Bullying between nurses is often in the news these days. There are many ways to address this pernicious issue, but one effective way to decrease this practice is to speak up and intervene when you witness it occurring.
Protecting and defending your fellow nurses from harassment and bullying is an important form of solidarity that can truly make a bold statement against these negative behaviors that undermine morale and cause great unhappiness and professional discontentment among nurses.
Nurses who bully and harass other nurses often do so due to their own unhappiness, low self-esteem, and feelings of powerlessness. In this case, the bullying nurse channels his or her feelings of internalized oppression towards others, rather than attempting to resolve those feelings constructively and healthily.
Speak Up and Step In
When witnessing another nurse being “dressed down” or otherwise humiliated or harassed by another nurse, it’s crucial to not be a silent partner in that form of negative and unhealthy interaction.
While it can be uncomfortable to step in or speak up under these circumstances, a bully who is made aware that their behavior is observed and not tolerated by others is less likely to continue to perpetrate such aggressive behavior in the future.
Of course there are risks in speaking up, but remember that you would want others to do the same if you were in similar circumstances.
If The Bully is a Boss
Sometimes, the bully in the nurses station is a supervisor or boss, and this can be more problematic when you decide to intervene. If the bully is a doctor or surgeon, it can seem even scarier to get involved. And while your actions may appear to put your job at risk, a bullying supervisor can create such a toxic work environment that risks must be undertaken in order to break the cycle and put a stop to the behavior.
Documentation is Key
Just like in any nursing intervention, documentation is key. Episodes of bullying, harassment and humiliation must be properly documented and reported to the proper authorities. Record these occurrences clearly and professionally, and be sure to keep a copy for your records before submitting them. Have any other witnesses also sign the documents.
It Takes a Village
Nurses need to work together to create and maintain healthy, sane and safe work environments. If we collectively stand up to bullying, the practice will diminish as the power of the bullies is diminished. Solidarity is key since it takes a village to combat bullying effectively.
Keith Carlson has worked as a nurse since 1996. He received an Associate Degree in Nursing from Greenfield Community College in 1996, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2001.
In addition to clinical nursing roles, Keith has held the position of Adjunct Professor of Nursing for a small LPN diploma program in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and has served as clinical preceptor for a variety of nursing students pursuing their education.
As a well-known and award-winning nurse blogger, Keith has maintained “Digital Doorway”, a popular nursing blog, since 2005. He currently practices nursing in Santa Fe, New Mexico.Keith also offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students — including health, wellness, career, work-life balance, and burnout prevention and recovery — under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching and NurseKeith.com.
Did you enjoy this article?