‘Bullying’ has been a buzzword in recent years. We talk about bullying in regards to Facebook and as it relates to children in our schools. Frankly, the whole anti-bullying movement kind of drives me nuts. There have always been and will always be mean kids. So, it’s up to our parents and teachers to identify them, discipline and counsel them, and give other children the skills needed to handle a harsh word. This is not a new ‘movement’, this is growing up as it has been and always will be.
While I find the talk about bullies in our schools, the sign-waving and marches against bullying, unnecessary and annoying, the discussion of ‘nurse bullying’ really gets under my skin. This spring, Marie Claire published an article on the topic titled ‘Girls of the ER: The Alarming Nurse Culture of Bullying and Hazing‘. The article describes a culture among nurses which includes “rampant hazing, bullying, and sabotage”. Author Alexandra Robbins asserts that at least 85 percent of nurses have been verbally abused by a fellow nurse. Is this really the case?
As Robbins delves into her exploration of the culture of bullying in nursing, she cites a 2011 Research in Nursing & Health survey finding that the most common bullying methods are “being given an unmanageable workload” and “being ignored or excluded”. As I read her words, I can’t help but think that “being given an unmanageable workload” seems more like a lack of communication between administration and nursing staff rather than a deliberate attack on a nurse. “Being ignored or excluded”, yes, it hurts not to be a ‘cool kid’, but leave work at work and hang out with your real friends when you’re off the clock. Or, get a new job.
Nursing is a profession, not a sorority. I have made some great friends throughout my career as a nurse practitioner. But, I don’t like everyone I work with and I’m sure there’s a (small!) possibility not everyone I work with likes me. Workplace relationships and interactions can certainly resemble those we have that are purely social. Cliques form between colleagues with similar interests or personalities, a coworker uses a demeaning or angry tone of voice when they have a bad day. As professional adults we must either let these things slide, confront them directly, or bring them to the attention of the appropriate higher-ups. When these measures prove ineffective or the problem recurring, a change in employer may be in order. Some nurses have opted to label themselves victims over taking action.
Playing victim rather than rising up both personally and as a profession, we do ourselves a great disservice as nurses. We continue to play into the healthcare hierarchy by appearing immature and incapable. It’s time to stop publicizing the 1980’s verbiage “nurses eat their young” and start being recognized for our intellect and capabilities.
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