Say NO to Nurse Bullying

As a neophyte or as a staff nurse, have you ever experienced verbal abuse, neglect, or humiliation from your superiors, doctors, or even coworkers? How did you feel about it?

They always say that bullying is already a part of nursing culture and considered as a “rite of passage” especially for nurses who are greenhorn in the industry. I think otherwise.

Center for American Nurses defines bullying as  “an offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, or abuse of power conducted by an individual or group against others, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated, or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.” Based on this definition, insulting or discriminating a nurse, a new nurse that is, should never be tolerated as a normal part of a nursing life. Instead, nurses should promote and cultivate positive working relationship with one another to maintain smooth communication within the workplace.

In the Philippines, nurses are like warriors fighting each other to see who will be the last man standing. Using this analogy and with thousands of nurses vying for limited opportunities as the backdrop, one can predict that bullying is rampant within Philippine hospitals. I got my first taste of bullying when I was just a nursing student in my senior year. We were assigned at a dilapidated delivery room of a public hospital in Quezon City. I will be very vocal to say that I hate O.B. but my distaste towards childbirth and female anatomy grew more when I met our grumpy and old clinical instructor who ironically hates nursing students but is being paid to do it. She is the type of nurse who will always remind you how experienced she is and how stupid you are for being a struggling student devoid of all the experiences and wisdom of  the Nursing world. She won’t listen to any one of us and as if it’s not enough, she  humiliated me in front of the patient and other health care professionals after I committed a simple mistake in gloving. That was the worst kind of treatment I had with someone I thought will guide and teach us the values of Nursing. I don’t know if I’m just being sensitive but I was downgraded big time when she shouted the word TANGA straight to my face. I thought I was the only one who had a traumatic experience but golly, I was so wrong. I’ve heard a lot of bullying stories from a lot of nurses I know. Bullying is now the name of the game. From eye-rolling in a response to a question to ego-shattering remarks, bullying has been part of every nurse’s life and the sad part about it is the fact that the perpetrators of this injustice are those who are superior than you both in position and in relevant clinical experience.

If Nursing is all about caring, then why don’t nurses treat each other with the same caring and encouraging attitude they have towards their patients? Especially now that Nursing in the Philippines is on one of its lowest points ever, why don’t nurses just help and treat each other equally so we can progress as a group instead of pulling each other down like the crazy crabs in the seashore? If nursing tasks and responsibilities are stressful enough, then why do we have to add bullying to further degrade one another? What are the reasons?

Yes, it is already given that you have all the experiences needed and all the competencies required for you to be called a “great nurse” worthy of respect and admiration. Perhaps you experienced the same type of treatment before from your coworkers and superiors and you are using that as an excuse to make your subordinate’s or your coworker’s life a living hell. But is it good enough to justify your actions when in fact, during college days, you were taught about empathy and displacement in Psychiatric Nursing and the importance of encouraging words to facilitate patient’s learning when you provide health teachings? Nursing is a noble profession and bullying should never be considered as a simple “rite of passage” because its a total disrespect to a person and his/her rights. In addition to that, American Journal of Nursing have found out that bullying within a  group of nurses exerts a profound influence in the hospital setting on nurse job satisfaction and well-being, contributing to ill calls and high turnover rates.Clearly, bullying is not a petty issue that should be taken for granted.

Nurses should exert their effort to make the world a better place both for their patients and their colleagues. One single word and one simple action can ruin someone’s life in an instant. So every time you belittle someone or give out negative and harsh remarks, please remember that a nurse’s soul is suffering and crying right behind the shadows of your own selfishness and boastfulness. Stop hurting. Stop BULLYING. And better stop it NOW.

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