The Nurse Bullying Epidemic

Scrubs Magazine’s #StopNurseBullying campaign.

In February 2018, a study was performed to look at the emotional risks of a Nurse. The results were shocking. Nurse Bullying is a real and present danger, and it affects every Nurse. In a 2018 study of over 2,000 nurses, 43% were considered high risk, with 7% reporting actions of self harm or thoughts about it. 11% reported previous suicide attempts. All of the participants of the study showed some sign of risk.

Nurse Suicide is not uncommon, and the majority of the time is stemmed from bullying in the workplace.

1. Forty-five percent of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses, according to a 2017 survey by employment agency RNnetwork. Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they have been verbally harassed or bullied by managers or administrators. Some nurses (38 percent) even reported having been verbally harassed or bullied by physicians. More than half of the nurses who reported work harassment indicated they were considering leaving the profession all together.

2. While some forms of bullying nurses experience are overt, like verbal harassment, threats or physical violence, other forms are more subtle. Researchers refer to this subtle harassment as “incivility,” a form of bullying commonly brought upon young nurses by their more experienced counterparts. Renee Thompson, DNP, RN,
said incivility can take on many forms, including sabotage, withholding information, excluding others, unfair assignments or downplaying accomplishments.

3. For some nurses, incivility can wreak havoc not only on their self-esteem, but on the health and well-being of their patients. In an interview for Marie Claire, 27-year-old Christi — who declined to provide her last name to the publication — said about four months into her job as an intensive care unit nurse at a North Carolina hospital, a group of nurses refused to help her care for a patient who had suddenly lost consciousness. A week after stabilizing the patient on her own, a friend told Christi not to go into her locker and to call a manager. Christi said she opened her locker and, after lifting her clothes with a tongue depressor, discovered a bloody syringe.

“My first thought was, ‘This could be attempted murder’ … because I didn’t know what was on the needle that I would have contracted if it stuck me,” she told the publication.

4. Nurses who have historically faced bullying or harassment in the workplace often do not report their concerns. If they do report the bullying, managers may do little to remedy the situation. During a September 2016 discussion hosted by the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and streamed live on Facebook, Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CEO of AORN, cited a survey in which only 38 percent of managers said they attempted to address complaints of bullying brought to their attention. Christi told Marie Claire she asked management to investigate the situation involving her locker. She said management refused, stating they “[couldn’t] fire 14 people for one nurse,” according to the report. Christi said she decided to leave the health facility after management did not allow her to change shifts or transfer departments, according to the report.

5. Some researchers speculate that because nursing is generally a female-dominated profession, competition plays a role in pitting nurses against one another. “Theories suggest that age-old female ‘competition’ [in the medical field] has shifted from competing over a man to competing over status, respect and position in the nursing environment,” said Dr. Thompson. “The same behaviors once witnessed between two women fighting over a man are the ones witnessed today in the behavior of bullies.’

The two marry together. In August, Rhian Collins who worked at Cefn Coeh Hospital in Swansea, UK hanged herself in her home. An inquest heard, She told her family her colleagues made her life ‘very difficult’ and would given her the worst night shifts.

At an inquest into her death, investigating officer Sergeant Nia Lambley said: ‘She was having issues at work. She was being sworn at, bullied and believed she was continually given the worst shifts on the ward.

On September 5th, Scrubs Magazine spoke to a victim of bullying. Andi Vordermann (soon to be a Student Nurse) ‘endured Hell’, felt sick to her stomach and spent many a sleepless night due to the strains brought upon her from bullying. Andi talked to us about the situation. Andi never claimed to be a Nurse and never misrepresented herself. She simply reserved the Instagram handle and used it to post documenting her way to becoming a student nurse.

How it started:

Andi won a white lab coat after entering a competition on social media, one of the rules? The company required a picture of the winner in the coat. Andi was also getting the coat embroidered as part of the competition. ‘I put Andi Ventura RN,BSN on there. I just wanted to put something as I could maybe use the coat one day.’

That’s when a user by the name of Twitter.com/Techy_Nursey started her attack.

TechTurnedNursingStudent

‘She didn’t like that.’ Says Andi. ‘I would never have worn the white coat in public, just something that sits on the floor in my closet, but when you win a product, you post about it. That’s just proper etiquette.’

Andi’s instagram page then came under attack.

BeersandScrubs

Beerandscrubs

@BeerandScrubs an LPN Nurse also joined in on the bullying. Her post which is still visible on Twitter at time of publishing, she also posts pictures of herself allegedly hungover at work.

‘Andi has BEGGED me to stop exposing her. No hunny.’ Touted @Techy_Nursey. ‘I want to rip apart “student nurse andi’s instas but she’d block me and I wouldn’t be able to see her posts and expose the lies’ (sic)

Andi turned to Twitter to try and talk to @Techy_nursey to figure out the situation. ‘I sent a very long apology, I would never want to offend someone so much, I told her how incredibly sorry I was. I’ve never claimed to have any credentials, this was just a fun screen-name for me, as this is my future. My whole platform is being vulnerable, showing failures, and showing that struggling to reach your goals is normal. Progress isn’t linear and we can’t act like it is.’

Andi continued: ‘There were a few other reasons she chose to attack me, but I don’t think I had an issue with her until it began to be threatening. This girl really had it out for me. She wanted to shame me, she wanted to drag me to the ground by my hair and watch me crumble.’

The Bully replied with: ‘I’m not offended by what you said, I’m just calling you out on your shit, You might as well just block me because I’m relentless and you’ve already lost. I’m just saving you some trouble. I’m gunna rip you a new asshole if you keep this up. You’ve been warned.’ (sic)

Her anger was so intimidating and threatening that Andi became sick, throwing up during the abuse. After deleting her Twitter page, @Techy_Nursey tweeted: ‘And that’s how it’s done. She left. Bye Hunny.’

Andi detailed in a post the next day clarifying her situation, that she wasn’t a student nurse yet and she wasn’t trying to dupe anyone. Messages of love poured through. However, the bully was still on the attack.

The next morning Andi woke to dozens of messages from other Nurses where Techy_nurse had still been posting about the situation. Andi had mentioned it to Nurse_Leah who had had enough of the bullying behavior, after displaying her anger about the situation, the attacks got worse. Nurse_Leah inspired Andi to post on her social networks and out the bully. ‘If this situation helped anyone else speak out then it’s worth it, it was only recently that another Nurse committed suicide because of bullying’.

It doesn’t take someone special to get bullied, it can happen to anyone.

It didn’t take long for the tweets to fire off again stating, ‘If defending nurses and student nurses and their achievements and rejecting imposters who profit from lies is bullying, then YUP I am a bully and will never stop.’ (sic)

Amongst the abuse were many other lies that the bully inflicted on Andi, such as failing a class and not getting accepted into the nursing program. Ironically enough, the picture @techy_nurse used to bully Andi was from her promoting a mental health campaign.

An astonishing sixty percent of new nurses quit their first job within the first six months due to the behavior of their co-workers, and nearly 50 percent of nurses believe that they will experience bullying at some time in their careers, according to research presented in an e-book from Aurora, Colo.-based American Sentinel University, by Dr. Renee Thompson.

According to Dr. Thompson’s research and observations, she identified two primary reasons why bullying is prevalent in nursing:

  • Nursing is a female dominated profession. “Theories suggest that age-old female ‘competition’ has shifted from competing over a man to competing over status, respect and position in the nursing environment. The same behaviors once witnessed between two women fighting over a man are the ones witnessed today in the behavior of bullies,” Dr. Thompson wrote.
  • Nurses are an oppressed profession. Dr. Thompson noted that nurses are seen as a silent majority, which can bring about frustration. “Feelings of frustration, coupled with an increasingly complex and stressful job, can create environments where nurses ‘take it out’ on each other. Since nurses can’t ‘take it out’ on administrators or physicians, the theory is that they take it out on the already oppressed, subservient group,” she wrote. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-capital-and-risk/5-thoughts-and-statistics-on-nurse-bullying.html)

Thankful and gracious:

‘I’m thankful that she decided to attack me because I have a platform to show others that this behavior is not acceptable. As an incoming nursing student, I have the ability to change the culture and stop nurse bullying. I’m thankful for that. We need to stop telling people they aren’t good enough to be a nurse, let them try! We as a community need to lift those people up, and help them reach their goals. Those people will be your co-workers one day, you want them to succeed. One day that person will be next to you when shit hits the fan in ICU, and they are helping you save someone’s life. You want them to be secure, you want them to be confident, you will have wished you took the time to raise them up rather than beat them down. That goes for new nursing starting on floors too. No more of this eating your young crap. Take ownership, mentor those new grads, or new nurses to your floor, and teach them all the skills that will make them succeed.’

The Power of Positivity

In a 2017 study, participants that were involved in a ‘positive thinking’ test were delivered daily doses of positive affirmations, motivations and audio. Nurses had to complete various quick tasks associated with positivity. The results of the study confirmed that interventions using social media tools were associated with improved knowledge, attitudes, and skills. This revealed the work life quality of the nurses increased after receiving the training. Therefore, one can conclude that teaching positive thinking has a positive impact on work life of nurses.

Our goal is to spread that positivity, and remember why you got into Nursing in the first place.

Scrubs Magazine has launched #StopNurseBullying, a campaign to help Nurses report those that are bullies in the workplace. In an industry that is massively short-staffed, we cannot afford to have 60% of Nurses quitting in their first 6 months, nor will we tolerate 50% of you being bullied.

If you are or know anyone who is being bullied, you can now report them anonymously online at here today. We will forward the information to the hospital in question along with any information you can provide.

Join the Movement

#StopNurseBullying

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