A nurse bully is almost never absent in a nursing workplace. If you think that bullying is only present in schools, you are wrong!
Every year, some nurses are forced to leave their job because of workplace bullying. Bullying at work creates unnecessary stress and burnout among nurses. It makes everyday tasks in the unit harder and it drags nurses’ spirit down.
If you want to dodge or confront bullying when it happens, you should be aware how a potential bully nurse behaves at work. Take a look at the following signs of a bully in a nursing team. Do you find them in your colleagues?
1. Perpetrator of The Silent Treatment
When a person doesn’t like someone, he or she completely ignores that person. This principle also applies to bullying. A nurse is already bullying a colleague by giving her the silent treatment at work.
How does the silent treatment looks like in a nursing workplace? Imagine two nurses, Nurse A and Nurse B. Since Nurse B is newly assigned to their unit, she consults Nurse A on the whereabouts of their supplies and equipment. Nurse A just shrugs her shoulder and continues in patient charting. For the whole shift, Nurse B felt like she is manning the unit all by herself and no other noise can be heard in their station.
The silent treatment can have a serious impact in patient care. A nurse receiving the silent treatment from her colleague will be hesitant to consult her doubts or ask advice about her patient’s treatment. She will be forced to resolve the problem about patient care on her own which is dangerous if she lacks relevant clinical experience.
2. Unrealistic Critic
A nurse bully is usually an unrealistic critic. Whatever the bullied nurse does is a red flag for the nurse bully.
Imagine Nurse B giving a report to Nurse A during change of shift endorsement. Nurse B is detailing her worries about how maximum dosage of inotropics is not yet sufficient in maintaining patient’s normal blood pressure. But Nurse A interrupts, saying how on earth the patient’s weight is not documented in the chart.
Overly criticizing a person degrades confidence and critical thinking skills. A budding nurse may be discouraged to continue her profession if another nurse criticizes every move and decision she makes.
When a nurse is easily and overly irritated with the actions of another nurse, this could be a sign of bullying.
Every new nurse in a unit deserves to be taught the essentials of manning the station. A bully nurse will do the basics of teaching but with ill feelings. Once the new nurse asks about some clarifications, the bully nurse will be short-tempered in answering the questions.
For example, Nurse B consults Nurse A in double-checking her drug computation. Nurse A answers in fury, adding that she is not absorbing what she is teaching.
4. Isolation Expert
A chronic bully nurse is skilled in inducing emotional torture to the nurse she bullies through isolation.
A nurse purposely isolating another nurse in meetings, endorsements and social events exhibits classic bullying. This makes a bullied nurse feel like she doesn’t belong in her work environment which may eventually lead to immediate resignation.
A nurse can only successfully isolate another nurse if other nurses will also cooperate in the bullying motive. If the whole nursing unit is isolating a particular nurse, she will feel like she is unwelcome and unwanted.
Imagine Nurse A giving report to their unit meeting. She talks to everyone while stating her monthly report but she neglects talking directly to Nurse B. Nurse A ignores Nurse B and other nurses unknowingly do the same since she is not given the chance to participate in the discussion. As a result, Nurse B feels she is excluded from the meeting.
5. Degrades in Front of Others
A bully nurse chooses no time and place in degrading another nurse’s skills and knowledge. Whether it’s in front of other healthcare workers or beside their patients, the timing and situation doesn’t matter.
For example, Nurse A and Nurse B are working together with resident doctors and respiratory technicians in bedside chest tube thoracostomy, 2-way bottle system, for one of their patients. Nurse B prepares a CTT pack for 1-way bottle system so Nurse A scolds Nurse B about how she always makes mistakes in the simple preparation of equipment. The resident doctors and respiratory technicians are surprised Nurse A makes a scene in the middle of a critical situation.
Confronting a nurse about observed mistakes in front of patients or other healthcare workers is unprofessional. A nurse who has integrity and has respect for her colleagues will confront another nurse privately whenever she observes any flaws in her actions. She will take this as an opportunity to teach a new knowledge or skill and not an opportunity to embarrass and make her feel incompetent.
6. Loves Juicy Stories
Spreading rumors and gossips is the most classic form of bullying among nurses. When nurses gather in breakroom, talking about other nurses is a common pastime habit. A bully nurse goes as far as fabricating juicy stories about the nurse she doesn’t like and spreads it to other nurses.
Imagine Nurse A talking about Nurse B during her break. She tells the other nurses that Nurse B is really incompetent because she doesn’t know what Dakin’s solution is. She further speculates that she extended for another year to pass her exams in her nursing school. The other nurses believe Nurse A although she just made up the whole story.
Whether made-up or not, talking about other people behind their backs is unprofessional behavior in any workplace.
Do you know more signs of a bully in a healthcare team? If ever you encounter a bully among your nursing colleagues, stand up for those being bullied in your unit. Don’t tolerate bullying as no nurse deserves harsh treatment from her own work family.
Bullying can only be stopped by having the courage to act against a nurse bully. Let’s unite in stopping the culture of bullying in nursing workplace.