Tough love for “incivility” in nursing

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There’s been a recent surge and great interest in the “incivility in nursing.” I dare ya to do a quick search–go ahead and Google it. I’ll be here when you get back…

Incivility = violence = lateral violence = disrespect = offensive= etc, etc. In fact, I read an article that spoke of incivility as simply being mean. Mean? Really?

Better yet, I read another article that talked about actions that can be interpreted as ‘”uncivil” (incivil?), such as tardiness or sending an email without a greeting (be still my heart!).

I’m poking a little bit of fun at a real and serious problem. For some strange reason, the world of nursing thinks the problem is unique to its profession. Or that the lateral violence we experience is new or, dare I say, different.

I spent a good amount of time reading some of the leaders’ opinions, blogs, articles and presentations online. I have to admit, I’m still trying to understand the uproar here.

Incivility in the workplace is as old at time. The only difference is how it gets handled and whether or not it’s tolerated. The truth of the matter is that lateral violence or incivility will never go away. It’s everywhere–not just in the workplace, but also in our social circles, in our classrooms and in our homes. It can be less prominent or more severe no matter where you go.

I think therein lies the problem. Lately it’s become more severe in the nursing world. There are a lot of theories as to why, and they are all equally entertaining (at least to me).

1. Men vs. women (nursing is a female-dominated career)
Women are more sensitive and thus are “hurt” easily.

  • How is it that women all around the world have survived in the medical community, then? Are you saying physicians are insensitive?

2. Women by their very nature can be catty
I have a hard time refuting this theory, since you don’t hear construction workers complaining about incivility. Men may resort to physical violence, but they aren’t diabolically vengeful (mostly!).

3. It’s the generation (Generation Y vs. Generation X vs. Baby Boomers)
Newer nurses feel “entitled”–they are “above” the basic bedside skills.

  • I would have picked the word “spoiled.” And it’s not just the younger nurses who are guilty.

4. BSN graduates are entitled and have an ego
So you think because they advanced their degree, they forgot what it was like at the bedside? Or that they would treat a bedside nurse poorly because they have more letters after their name?

5. Newer nurses preoccupied with leapfrogging
Apparently, it’s viewed as an offense if a young nurse wants to advance his or her education? While neglect is rampant (no argument there), how is pursuing a higher education a bad thing?

6. Newer nurses have no respect
Have you heard the saying “nurses eat their young”? Since when is a bad thing if the young fight back? Respect is a two way street.

  •  I think it has everything to do with you as a person (and professional) and how you deal with challenges. Period. It’s that simple. If you don’t want lateral violence to snowball, figure out a way to challenge it and deal with the root of the problem.


We all need to grow some thicker skin
If someone offended you, don’t go tattling on them to your supervisor. Have the self-indignation to confront the assailant as a professional with your views, interpretations and explanations as well as suggestions to alleviate the occurrence from repeating. Do not turn into a high school teenager.

There should be zero tolerance from anyone holding a supervisory or leadership role
This includes every nurse who has more experience than the nurse next to them. I’ll say that again: You assume a leadership role the minute you are no longer the rookie. Period.

Newer nurses: Quit being so spoiled rotten
Just because you were coddled doesn’t give you the right to whine every time something didn’t go according to plan. Learn to roll with the punches. There is definitely a difference between self-assertiveness and immaturity.

Seasoned nurses: Quit being so vindictive and insecure
Leaving the bedside is neither good or bad, it’s just a decision to further one career. If you find it so offensive or appalling, keep it to yourself. Better yet, I dare you to try to take the same leap.

And lastly, this is for all the nurse leaders out there. If you really want to effect change, then quit with the academia-babble
Get out there in the trenches. Get your hands dirty (figuratively and literally). Quit creating new employer-based committees and developing action plans with continuum manifestos and evidenced-based theories. Walk the walk, folks.

Am I being blasé? A little too laissez-faire? Insensitive? Is it because I’m a man??!! (Ohh let the hate mail begin!) Or maybe, it’s because I don’t tolerate or accept the incivility when it shows its face.

I take a professional, head-on approach instead of whining, crying wolf and pleading with a “woe is me” attitude. There is a profound difference between being a victim and acting like one.

Let’s all put on our big-girl and big-boy pants and learn to play nice in the sand box.

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