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Tips to help nurses deal with bullying

Whether you’re a new nurse or a veteran nurse, chances are good that you’ve encountered bullying at some point in your career. It’s one of the harsh–and unfortunate–realities of nursing.

In this week’s episode of “The Katie Duke Show”on ScrubsBeat, Katie Duke shares some tips to help every nurse deal with bullying in the workplace. Hear what she has to say in the video below!

Do you have any advice to help your fellow nurses deal with bullying?

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5 Responses to Tips to help nurses deal with bullying

  1. Nursekat12

    Hello Katie, Thank you for posting on the topic of Bullying in Nursing I am an RN who returned to the hospital after working in a school for six years. I expected to work hard and to learn the floor quickly. What I did not expect was to be bullied by my preceptor. My preceptor used harsh and abrasive language if I asked a question or didn’t catch on to the computer (Epic) system the first time she showed me what to do. It got so bad I was humiliated in front of the other members of the team. I dreaded going to work. I did talk with her after shift as you suggested, but it only got worse. She reported to the Nurse Manager that I was unwilling to listen to feedback and was disorganized, despite the fact I was working my shift with minimal assistance. I was called into the office and told I according to my preceptor I was barely functioning as a nurse. I had two weeks to get my act together. I asked if it were possible if I could be pre-cepted by another nurse. There was another orientee who was being treated with patience and encouragement. The manager refused, stating that my preceptor had many years of experience At this point I was stressed so bad I was barely sleeping. But I came to work every day with a positive attitude and basically did my job with my preceptor as a back-up should I fall behind in my work. I was feeling pretty good about coming off orientation and finally being on my own without the preceptor bullying me. I was shocked when I was again called into the manager’s office and fired! I asked for specific examples of what I had done wrong in my patient care, but the manager stumbled over his words and brought up that I had come to work without my ID! I patiently explained that it was in my car and asked my preceptor if I could run to my car after report and she was fine with it, I have been a nurse for 18 years and never had experienced such treatment. The department I returned to was Psych and I had several years of good experience behind me. I was a preceptor! I am now jobless and wondering what direction I should go. I do not have the option of being out of work for very long. I hope we can somehow bring more awareness to this terrible problem in our field. Thank you again for your efforts to address bullying in healthcare.

    • jenny2712

      This exact scenario happened to me too. I was a new nurse and was bullied by my preceptor who saw me as someone there to do all the work while she did her homework and gossiped. Ultimately she had me fire after weeks of bullying. That was my first nursing experience out of school and I haven’t been back to nursing. It breaks my heart.

      • Melissa Kirkpatrick

        Hi!! The same exact thing happened to me!! I’ve been a nurse for 9 years and
        Got fired at the hands of my
        Preceptor on 12/30/14. I
        Have a family, 3 girls to provide for and now am jobless a due to being bullied, belittled and berated! I was working as a RN at a local hospital and it was my first hospital job!! They knew upon hiring me I lacked hospital experience, I was so grateful
        that finally a facility was willing to give me an opportunity to
        Gain experience. I went to work everyday giving my all and learning, however it just wasn’t enough! My manager, whom NEVER counseled me on anything prior to being fired, said even though I’m personable, kind, a team player, and I bring a ray of sunshine to the unit, I’m not progressing fast enough per my preceptor. They made me feel like I was incompetent, stupid, and at this
        Point I’m not even sure if
        Being a nurse is worth it. It’s so unfair that others feel the need to treat their co-workers this way. We should be cheering each other on rather than breaking down one another. We all had to learn and ask questions, and at one point everyone is A NEW NURSE! It’s sad that we work so dang hard to get this degree and for what? Feeling discouraged ;-(

  2. Rushchick73

    Hi, Katie! Love watching your videos!

    I am so glad you’ve addressed the subject of bullying in nursing. And yes, it does lead to burn out. I’ve experienced bullying from the time I started working as an RN (3+ years). Sometimes it’s passive-aggressive stuff that you learn to just shrug off. Other times, it’s very direct, very cruel, and seriously undermines your confidence in your nursing skills/judgment, which is still all too fragile when you’re a young nurse.

    My worst bullying experience ever came at the hands of my preceptor at my current job. I like her and very much consider her a friend now, but it’s still burned into me that when I came to her and asked for help starting an IV, she made terrible fun of me in front of my patient, who was totally alert and “with it”. I felt embarrassed enough already to not be able to start that IV, and she started making jokes about what a crappy nurse I was in front of the patient, and took along another nurse to laugh and make fun of me too!

    I also have one nurse who regularly gives me the “stank face” when I give report in the AM. I had a pt on a Cardizem drip and not having a lot of experience, I called on my charge nurse who has a ton of experience to verify my nursing judgments along the way. He was ok with everything I suggested. But she still gave me “stank face” because she felt I should’ve titrated the drip more.

    I have an orientee with me now, and she witnessed this first-hand. (I also thought to warn her ahead of time of the dreaded stank face reaction.) Our facility has a reputation of being hard AND unfriendly to boot. This was my first full-fledged orientee ever to train, and I have made it a point to take her around, introduce her to everyone, make her feel like a member of the crew. (And alert her in subtle ways to problem staff who might give her a hard time initially.) I don’t foresee any problems with her.

    I just don’t understand why nurses with experience and knowledge don’t help the younger nurses more. Maybe nothing was ever “given” to you as a a nurse in the old days and you had to learn the hard way, but that still doesn’t excuse being negative/hateful and running off new nurses from the field. I’m sometimes doubtful about my skills and I’m learning to stand up to the abuse in a constructive, adult manner, but I do love my patients and I try my utmost. Who do these nurses think will take care of them when they fall critically ill in later life? They might have discouraged a perfectly wonderful nurse from the field, leading to another nurse shortage.

    Thank you, Katie, for your lovely, thoughtful, very human perspectives on nursing. Keep ’em coming! :)

  3. tinathecma

    Hi Katie! Thanks for the informative video. As you prob already know, CNA’s and PCT’s get bullied a lot from RN’s too. Some of us are not new to the unit but the senior RN just has a chip on her shoulder or just plain has a nasty attitude all together. I had to work with a senior RN one time in Telemetry ( was a PCT then) and she would just belittle me and I wasn’t going to take and this woman would not care if we were in the hall ways and all. I told her listen, you and I are over 21 and you need to stop treating me like if you were in HS. We are here for the patients. I don’t care if your husband didn’t give it to you last night or if you’re going thru menopause. You need to quit!

    She was like, “I’m telling the shift supervisor on you!” like a kid! unbelievable. The woman was 50 and was acting extremely childish. I had to transfer to another department because she was causing me too much stress…

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