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Physicians Aren't the Only Problem

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2013

Nurses verbally abused by doctors are more likely to verbally abuse their nurse colleagues, survey data shows. That should make all hospital leaders—not just CNOs—sit up and take notice.

Nastiness breeds nastiness, even among those whose job it is to be caregivers.

That's one of the key takeaways from a study by the RN Work Project, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which surveyed 1,328 newly licensed registered nurses (NLRNs) about how often they were verbally abused by physicians and the nature of the abuse.

The survey uncovered a lot of things that nurses who've been on the receiving end of workplace verbal abuse probably don't need a study to tell them:

  • Verbal abuse makes nurses unhappy at work,
  • Abused nurses are more likely to want to find a new job, and
  • Nurses don't feel particularly loyal to workplaces where such behavior flourishes [is condoned]

But one finding in particular should make all hospital leaders—not just CNOs—sit up and take notice: Nurses who are verbally abused by physicians are more likely to verbally abuse each other.


See Also: Docs to Disruptive Patients: 'You're Fired'


In other words "verbal abuse is contagious," study coauthor Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing at the University at Buffalo, said in a statement. Those nurses who experienced the most frequent abuse also perceived poor collegial relations between RNs and physicians, poor workgroup cohesion, and more work-family conflict.

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2 comments on "Physicians Aren't the Only Problem"


gail (8/16/2013 at 1:38 AM)
Please look into the Healthy Work Place Bill...writen by Law Professor David Yamada Boston Ma

Phyllis Kritek, RN, PhD (8/14/2013 at 5:19 PM)
Thanks for addressing this important issue. I was bemused that before I could read this there was an ad from the American Nurses Association (ANA). The ANA has mounted a vigorous campaign addressing nurse to nurse interpersonal violence and bullying, one of the most vigorous I have seen. I would like to acknowledge the leadership they have shown in addressing this issue and making useful tools available to assist CNOs in tackling the problem in their institutions. Also of note, the Joint Commission has several new standards statements that can be used by institutions to make a case for implementing policies and practices that address disruptive behavior. These tools can help those who want to take action.