Nurse Bully + Silence = Complicity

If there’s a nurse bully on your unit, at your agency, or in your facility, something’s wrong and needs to be fixed. Bullying in nursing is rampant, and many nurses are frozen with fear when considering how to handle a bully. Even nursing administration may turn a blind eye, preferring to ignore the problem (and hoping it goes away). If there’s bullying going on in your workplace and you’re remaining silent about it, that silence is truly equal to complicity.

Bullying contributes to nurse attrition from the workplace, nurses leaving the profession altogether, staff turnover, stress-related illness, and increased costs due to the need to replace nurses who leave due to the toxic work environment. Replacing a nurse and onboarding a new employee is costly for the organization, as are nurse burnout and compassion fatigue, which also contribute to decreased quality of care and patient satisfaction. When morale suffers and the work environment is toxic, everyone loses.

Complicity and Silence

When it comes to bullying, those who refrain from speaking up or attempting to bring attention to the problem are complicit with the bully. If you;re witnessing bullying and standing by without trying to intervene, you’re sending a (silent but powerful) signal to the bully that his or her behavior is condoned and accepted as the norm.

Fear is, of course, the main factor that prevents us from confronting or reporting a nurse bully, but that fear should not stop you from working towards removing that bully from your midst and eradicating bullying from the workplace altogether. If your fear is silencing you, then you must do something about your fear so that you can raise your voice and take action.

Bullying Education

Most of us (including nursing administration and nurse executives) have no idea what to do about a nurse bully. In fact, administration is probably so afraid of violating some legal workplace regulation that they’re unwilling to take action or press forward with trying to remove the bully from their employ; this leads to inaction and continuation of the bullying behavior.

Organizations and nurses need education on many aspects of this important issue, including:

  • Bully-proofing the workplace
  • Teaching staff how to speak and act around a bully
  • Establishing anti-bullying policies with real teeth
  • Teaching nurses and managers how to identify a bully
  • Learning how to document bullying and build a case for termination of the bully

Dr. Renee Thompson is one of the leading national experts on eradicating nurse bullying from the 21st-century healthcare workplace; she travels the country lecturing on nurse bullying, and also consults with healthcare institutions who are either rooting out bullies or working to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place. Dr. Susan Strauss is another national expert well worth researching, with specialization in both bullying and harassment.

Take Action and Speak Out

Remember, silence is complicity when it comes to nurse bullying. If there’s a bully on your unit and you don’t know how to handle them, read articles, books, and blog posts that will teach you what to do. Bring these references and tools to the attention of nurse management and the executive suite, and demand concerted action against the bully. Begin a large-scale campaign of documentation of the bully’s behavior, and make sure that witnesses to the behavior are fully documented and on board with that documentation effort.

Nurses, take action, speak out, and don’t allow nurse bullies to destroy our profession. They can be defeated and removed, but only if you take the bull by the horns and make it happen.


About Keith

view all posts

Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at NurseKeith.com.