How to Handle Bullies in Nursing
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
Consequences of Bullying
Bullying creates a toxic workplace, making the general atmosphere hostile as well. It isn’t just detrimental to the nurse who is the victim, but to the rest of the staff as well. Nursing is a team sport, and when one nurse isn’t at the top of her game, the rest of the team can’t deliver optimal care.
For example, a nurse who bullies may be more concerned about finding fault in the target, rather than paying attention to work. And the victim may be so preoccupied about avoiding the bully, that he provides less than ideal patient care.
A coworker who is afraid of drawing attention to herself, for fear of a bully, may not speak up when she has valuable information or insight to share with the team. Some may second-guess themselves for fear of being singled out for making a decision that the bully doesn’t agree with. Other nurses may join the bully’s side because they feel safest that way – better to be the bully than the target, right?
A nursing staff that doesn’t work as a team can’t work effectively. For patients to receive the best care, information has to be exchanged freely among nurses and they have to back each other up.
Individually, bullying can affect both mental and physical health. Mentally, the anxiety and/or depression can become overwhelming. Physically, the stress can cause physical issues such as insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and GI issues.
How to Confront a Bully
Dealing with being bullied may be just as traumatic as being bullied. The very idea of facing the tormentor may make a nurse believe that things are best left as is, for fear of repercussions. “Nurses often feel so powerless after being bullied that they don’t even see confrontation as an option,” Vega says. “They simply resign because they feel they have no choice.” But running away doesn’t end the cycle of violence. All nurses have the right to a safe and supportive work environment.
The first step to take is to confront the bully and let her know her behavior is unacceptable. However, “confrontation” doesn’t require an aggressive or loud response in front of other people.