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Video: Experts talk nurse bullying on RNFM Radio

On February 12, RNFM Radio led a dynamic roundtable conversation with Renee Thompson and Dr. Susan Strauss, two well-known national experts on nurse bullying and horizontal violence. During the hour-long chat (episode 102 for the station!), the guests and host discussed workplace bullying in all aspects of healthcare…something we know is a huge concern for many nurses, so we wanted to share the roundtable video with you.

Watch the entire discussion here:

Highlights from the discussion:

  • Thompson talked about why nurse bullying is so prevalent, and how ironic it is since nurses are known for how loving they are to their patients. While there are many theories out there, she believes it is likely because nurses are mostly women and (although this is not the case anymore) it wasn’t that long ago that women were competing against each other for a “prized male”…and taking each other down in their quest. She calls them “competitive behaviors.”
  • Thompson also discussed the “forced hierarchy” at hospitals, which may lead to nurses feeling like they don’t have a voice. It’s also tough that these sorts of things aren’t taught in school, where all of the focus is on the more clinical side of the job.
  • Strauss turned the focus to oppression…both of women and the nursing profession. She explained that while not all men are oppressive (of course), they have historically been the oppressors and women a marginalized group. Women then turn on each other, feeling helpless and unable to turn on the group that’s oppressing them because they’re fearful for their jobs.
  • Both female and male nurses said that the OR is a better place now that there are more female surgeons, even though there are only 7 percent currently working as such in the U.S. Overall, both female and male nurses said that working with female surgeons was easier.
  • Most female nurses have said they’d rather work with male nurses than other female nurses. Male nurses now make up 10 percent of all nurses, mostly working in the ER and OR.
  • There are three reasons why bullying continues throughout the profession: 1. it’s hard to change the norm, 2. fear of retaliation and 3. managers use silence as a strategy.
  • Nurse bullying is not unique to the U.S.; there is plenty of research proving that it happens to nurses all over the world. Strauss says this proves it’s important to look at the system as a whole.
  • One of the most important things in dealing with bullying is not only for the victim to speak up, but also for the witness to speak up.
  • There is a difference between bullying (seen about 30 percent of the time) and harassment (50 percent), and harassment is illegal and more often dealt with by teams like HR. Bullying is harder to crack down on because there are no actual laws or ways to judge it.
  • Thompson pointed out that leadership determines the vibe of the team, and that’s why it’s so important for managers to actually manage the situation. If there is a bully at work and s/he has been warned by management without improvement, s/he should be fired. It’s toxic for the entire environment.
  • Managers should be meeting with their nurses, even if it’s just to check in and build relationships and not for a specific reason. But if your manager isn’t doing this, don’t be a passive victim–ask them for 15 minutes of their time and work on that relationship.

About the speakers:

  • Renee Thompson has more than 20 years of experience encompassing clinical practice, education, and executive leadership across the continuum of care. She is the author of “’Do No Harm’ Applies to Nurses Too! Strategies to protect and bully-proof yourself at work.” She speaks nationwide to healthcare organizations and academic institutions motivating her audience at keynote addresses, professional conferences, workshops, and seminars. Her presentations and seminars focus on improving clinical and professional competence, eliminating nurse-to-nurse bullying, effective communication and leadership, building a positive and healthy workplace, and nurturing a culture of respect.
  • Dr. Susan Strauss is a nationally recognized expert, author and international speaker on discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace and education. She works with private and public sector organizations to provide professional services for business, legal, healthcare, education and government settings. Susan has been selected to speak on sexual harassment at international conferences in Botswana, Thailand, Egypt, Israel and the United States. Her extensive experience in management and organization development provides a unique blend to her consulting services.

Nurses, what do you make of this roundtable? Have you experienced or witnessed workplace bullying? What steps need to be taken to alleviate some of these issues? And did you tune in to the discussion or watch it above? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Psst: Check out Thompson’s story on nurse bullying for RNFM here!

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