We Should Talk About Bullying in Nursing
October 14, 2016 04:33 PM
At NAHC, we believe nurses are the backbone of America’s health care system. In home care they are often the quiet and forgotten heroes, caring for the sick, elderly and disabled that depend on them for their well-being and even their lives.
When we think of nurses we think of caring and nurturing, not bullying, which is an act or series of acts of aggression by someone in a higher level of authority over a subordinate. There is also what is called lateral violence – acts of aggression among colleagues. All this matters because bullying and lateral violence is a huge, if often unspoken, problem in nursing.
A 2007 study of student nurses found that 53% had been insulted or demeaned by a staff nurse and a 2001 ANA study found that 57 percent of nurses had been threatened or experienced verbal abuse at work.
One study of lateral violence found 97 percent of nurses surveyed reported lateral violence in their health care workplace as a regular occurrence, with verbal abuse being the form most commonly cited. A web-based survey from 2011 asked nurses to rate the frequency of their experience with lateral violence, using a six-point scale in which one meant never and six meant daily. The mean score of respondents was 4.5, meaning lateral violence occurred more than monthly in the participating nurse’s workplace.
Lateral violence by nurses in the health care workplace is estimated to cost more than $4 billion per year due to absenteeism, lost productivity and turnover of trained staff. That amount is most likely a considerable under-estimate, due to lack of proper reporting of the problem. It is not surprising that nurses are likely to leave their place of employment within six months of the first incident of victimization. The cost of replacing and training nurses is substantial -- $22,000 for each new nurse and $64,000 for each new experienced nurse.
Apart from being expensive, that sort of workplace atmosphere is bad for morale and the psychological (and perhaps physical) well-being of nurses. It can lead to depression, hypertension, coronary artery disease, absenteeism and staff attrition. It can also negatively affect the quality of care.
The Institute of Safe Medication Practice found in 2004 that 40 percent of clinicians “kept quiet” or ignored an improper medication due to an intimidating colleague. The health of patients is at stake.
Nurses who are driven out of the profession by bullying and lateral violence represent a tragedy of lost talent and potential. Our nurses are far too important for them to be driven out of their critical line of work by a problem that is preventable.
But how do employers and managers know when bullying and lateral violence is occurring in their workplace and what do they do about it? These are crucial questions and it is unreasonable to expect managers with no training in this area to instinctively know how to proceed. Fortunately, the information and assistance you need to recognize and deal with bullying and lateral violence among nurses is available.
The NAHC Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida later this month will feature an educational session called Bullying and Violence in Nursing: The Big Issue in the Profession That No One Wants to Talk About. The speaker will be Patricia Rowell, who earned her BSN and PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University and her MSN at the University of Virginia. She also has a certificate in mental health nursing from Catholic University. Ms. Rowell has worked as an RN in emergency rooms, psychiatry, pediatrics, home care and elsewhere. She is uniquely qualified to discuss the subject of bullying and lateral violence in nursing and we strongly encourage you to attend this educational session.
NAHC’s Annual Meeting is a great opportunity to enhance your place in the industry. To view all of NAHC’s Annual Meeting education, please click here.