Mentored or Marinated (Nurse Bullying)

“Oh hell no! I am NOT going to take an orientee with me tonight; can’t they figure this stuff out? I really don’t have time for this, they always just drag me down”. These very harsh words were said directly in front of the new nurse as she sat awkwardly at the nurses station with the “senior nurses” arguing around her about who would “have to” take on the burden of orienting a new nurse.

The new nurse on the unit, inexperienced, unsure, and very dependent on others for direction during those first fragile new years into nursing. We have all been there at some point or another; or maybe you are there right now. How is that going for you? What is your experience like so far? Are you being mentored or are you being marinated for the next feast?

The new nurse in the above situation had an awful first experience into a profession that she had dreamt about for years upon years. I know her story very well, as it’s my story. It’s been over twenty years since I took those first steps into the health care field, but those very first impressions, the bullying I experienced, could have very easily changed my direction forever.

According to one study, 38 percent of working adults have experienced bullying at work and 42 percent have witnessed bullying behavior. And while most workplace bullies are men, women can be bullies, too: 40 percent of all workplace bullies are female, according to the “Workplace Bullying Institute.”

One source describes bullying as: “any vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that result in a harmful work environment for the employee” (Canada Safety Council, 2005).

Okay, so what can we do to rid our profession of the cancer of bullying? Well, it seems straight forward enough, but we can go directly to the person who is bullying and confront the behavior in a non-confrontational way. Be very careful not to escalate the situation, rather just communicate that this is not acceptable.

If the direct approach is not effective the next step would be to report the behavior to our managers. For some reason we still seem to live by the old adage, “snitches get stitches”; but that is just not truth. Actually this simple action can sometimes be enough to extinguish the behavior. When we approach management with this situation try to have the bullying events well documented, if possible have witness statements available as well. Having all of our “ducks in a row” before we approach management will help management to deal with the situation in an effective manner. Your managers need to know what is happening in their units!

Bullying is hurtful and can give new grads a terrible first impression of nursing. Bullying in healthcare is nothing new, and it takes many forms, but does it really have to be something that we just accept as part of nursing? I say no. Let’s get out there and demonstrate the same compassion we give our patients to each other. We need to be supportive of each other…we are in this together.
Long hours, lack of breaks for food or bathroom and mandatory overtime does not give us reason to marinate each other for the feast; it is rather a reason to band together.

What is your experience?


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