Bullying Part One:

Eating Your Young Will Result in Nausea

So let’s talk a little about bullying.  We have all witnessed it, perpetrated it or been the victim of bullying at one time or another in our lives.  Certainly bullying is not unique to nursing.  Yet you never hear the phrase “Respiratory Therapists Eat Their Young” or “Social Workers Eat Their Young”.  Maybe they do.  If so, they certainly have managed to keep it from being associated with their profession.   Google the term “(choose a profession) eat their young” and the nursing profession gets hits every time.  The sad fact is that “Nurses Eat Their Young” is a phrase that is common and embarrassing.  

Thankfully we have yet to see any recruitment ads showing a GN being devoured by a bunch of zombie RNs.  Actually bullies are worse.  Whereas zombies lack a consciousness and self-awareness it is assumed that bullies have retained those qualities. And while you may think I am making jest, I am very serious.  Can you image a worse image for a profession that is centered on care and well being than an image that reveals professional hypocrisy through a lack of care and respect for their its very members? 

A 2004 study indicated that 60 percent of new nurses left their first position within six months due to some sort of bullying from another nurse.  Of course that was before the economy slumped.  No doubt there are many new nurses across the country and throughout the profession that would have fled their institution or the profession years ago who now stay and struggle in discontent and disillusion.  I can only imagine the impact that this mental state has on the quality and outcomes of patient care.

At any given moment nurses are giving care that is changing lives in a positive manner.  But yet as a profession we so often neglect our responsibility to protect and care for ourselves and each other.  The truth is that the vast majority of nurses do not bully.  It is also the truth that bullying often goes unreported and consequently unaddressed by that same majority that witnessed it.  To quote Edmund Burke (1729-1797), “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As an institution Children’s Mercy Hospital has taken a firm stance on bullying.  We have policies in place that clearly state any type of workplace violence or bullying committed will not be tolerated.  But policies are never enough.  That is why we discuss the issues, encourage the right mindset and educate ourselves on bullying.  In upcoming entries we will discuss types of bullying and what we as individuals can do to address bullying.  You are welcome to comment, just be thoughtful and constructive.   You may want to review the previous posting, “House Rules” before commenting.

There is an excellent article by Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS, A Matter of Respect and Dignity: Bullying in the Nursing Profession, via Medscape Nurses.   

 A link to the site is:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/729474