It’s easy to understand the importance of a nurse’s job in the hospital. They tend to the medical, physical and emotional needs of patients. It’s a stressful, exhausting job. What makes this job even harder? Bullying. Unfortunately, doctors, hospital leaders, patients, families and even other nurses routinely bully nurses. How does nurse bullying impact patients?
Nursing is a tough job.
Nurses are responsible for a wide variety of tasks, including administering medications, monitoring the patient’s health, reporting health issues to the patient’s doctors. In addition, nurses keep the patient comfortable and provide emotional support to the patient and the family.
Like any job, there are aspects of nursing that are difficult, including dealing with patients and families who are verbally abusive. Moreover, nurses work long shifts, sometimes with no time for bathroom or food breaks. Importantly, nurses also cope with the stress of traumatic events.
It’s no wonder that nurses face some of the highest levels of work related stress, depression and burnout. It is a tough job by anyone’s standards.
The impact of bullying on nurses.
Research shows that nurses who have been bullied report significantly lower levels of job satisfaction. Furthermore, bullied nurses have significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety and thoughts of leaving the profession
How common is nurse bullying?
The exact number of bullied nurses is unknown. And survey data shows a range of reports. For instance, one survey found that 42% of nurses were bullied. Additionally, another surveys found that 50% of nurses report being bullied/verbally abused in the previous 12 months. And it’s not just a problem in the US. In fact, worldwide, 1/3 of nurses quit their job due to workplace bullying.
Nurses are bullied by others and they bully each other.
Experts state that nurses bully each other each other when they are dissatisfied and stressed and take it out on their fellow nurses. Furthermore, new nurses in training are particularly vulnerable to bullying by other nurses.
Bullying behaviors include publicly humiliating, isolating, excluding, or excessively criticizing a nurse. Bullying can be covert or overt.
According to Dr. Renee Thompson, an expert on nurse bullying, these are some common overt bullying tactics:
- Verbal criticism or name-calling
- Physical violence
Dr. Thompson’s list of common covert bullying weapons includes:
- Withholding information
- Unfair assignments
How does nurse bullying impact patients?
A report on bullying in healthcare settings by The Joint Commission states that bullying can impact patient health, including an increase in patient harm, medical errors and infections. Clearly, it’s easy to imagine scenarios where nurses cause patient harm because they feel too intimidated to ask their superior nurses questions for fear of being reprimanded or embarrassed.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, this is a common problem that hospitals must fix.
However, you can reduce the impact of nurse bullying on you, or your loved one. Consider these suggestions:
- If something doesn’t seem right, speak up! But be polite.
- Keep detailed written records of all conversations with medical staff, as well as test results and lab reports.
- Participate in rounds whenever possible – ask questions as needed and be sure you understand the answers.
- Double check all medications before taking any in the hospital. Do not be afraid to speak up if you see an unfamiliar medication.
- Have a family member or other trusted adult stay in the hospital with the patient as much as possible. Ask about sleeping in the room – sometimes a bed or special sleep chair can be provided.
- If you sense that a nurse is unable to perform a particular task, ask to see a charge nurse who is more experienced and has managerial oversight of the nurses on the floor.
No matter which hospital you or your loved use, engage in your care to reduce your risk of issues. For more information, read these blog posts:
- Nurse Stress and Fatigue Can Impact Your Health.
- The Dangers of Missed Bedside Alarms.
- The Benefits of Participating in Hospital Rounds.
- Medication Errors in Hospitals – How Can You Protect Yourself?
- How Hospital Patients Can Resolve Problems.
- What’s Your Hospital’s Safety Record? Is Your Hospital Safe?