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How to Lose Good Nurses

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, June 25, 2013

The authors of the study say that it's this kind of passive/aggressive abuse that's the most "insidious."  

"Rather than yelling, swearing, insulting or humiliating behavior, most early career RNs reported that the abuse they experienced involved condescension or lack of acknowledgement," Wendy Budin, RN-BC, PhD, FAAN, adjunct professor at the College of Nursing, New York University, one of the study authors, said in a statement.  

"This kind of subtle abuse is less likely to be reported and more likely to be overlooked as a problem, which makes it all the more insidious and it is all the more important that hospital administrators work to confront and prevent it."

Indeed, Dellasega told me a few weeks ago that such behavior is common when nurses form cliques and gang up on or exclude other nurses. For example, nurses who are part of a clique often make rude or sarcastic comments to or about newcomers, and even go so far as not sharing supplies.

Part-time, agency, or floater nurses are another group of nurses that Dellasega says often experience bullying. The RN Work Project study appears to support this claim: It found that staffing shortfalls were also correlated with higher levels of abuse.

Another finding had to do with shift length, with RNs working day shifts saying that they experienced higher levels of verbal abuse than those working evening and weekend shifts. RNs working eight-hour shifts were less likely to experience abuse than RNs working 12-hour shifts. Unmarried nurses reported higher levels of verbal abuse, too.

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4 comments on "How to Lose Good Nurses"


Veda Andrus, EdD, MSN, RN, HN-BC (7/3/2013 at 8:02 AM)
This is such a tough topic to truly address! The theory of oppression (consider Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed http://www.pedagogyoftheoppressed.com/) captures the deeper issue here as Betty Jo has indicated but how to get to the proverbial bottom of this issue has eluded nursing for decades. I teach my students to send lovingkindness (see Sharon Salzberg's book Lovingkindess: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness) to challenging colleagues with the intention of "rising above" the negativity, competition, and fear-based thinking. I also encourage them to choose to not get involved with gossip, which is a form of bullying that separates nurses from one another. I would appreciate hearing other strategies to end the cycle of bullying in nursing ... and in our world.

moda year (7/2/2013 at 1:00 PM)
As a veteran RN of more than 30 years, I have witnessed the bullying throughout my entire career. It is, as you stated, insidious. Often, it is also thinly veiled as teasing. "Do some cloak themselves as abusers in order to avoid becoming the abused?" I've wondered this many times over the years. Keeping your head down, minding your own business, tending to task, and avoiding the cliques unfortunately doesn't keep you from becoming a target sooner or later. It is not just the young or the new nurses who are vulnerable. Bullying can and does occur at any interval along the path of the nursing career. It doesn' matter if you are thin or fat, attractive or not, highly intelligent or average, high on the career ladder or entry level. As much as new nurses, those nurses who are nearing the end of their career are especially vulnerable. I'd like to see an article dedicated to the entirety of bullying in nursing.

Pat Akinyombo, RN (6/28/2013 at 11:45 AM)
It has been said that nurses eat their young. I think the biggest problem is that new nurses are being sent in to be trained by overworked, overstressed and often disrespected nurses and the end result is bullying. Perhaps we should look at why nurses behave the way we do towards new nurses. People who are happy and fulfilled don't usually take on bullying behvaiors.