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What can a nurse do about bullying behavior from a coworker?

Dear Nancy,

Last week, a coworker was suspended for an incident off of our unit on company time. After a meeting with management, she was told to leave the building but instead came to me asking why I got her suspended. I attempted to call my managers for help, but my coworker hung up the phone twice. She started to poke me, wanting to know the answer. I yelled at her to stop touching me and immediately contacted my manager. I have no direct witnesses, even though there were others in the room. They saw the incident, but didn’t hear it. She has aggressively intimidated me and other coworkers for years, and I believe she was spoken to my management on several occasions before her suspension. I’m afraid to go to work next week. I fear retaliation from this individual for calling management for help. What are my options?



Dear Marlene,

You should not be subjected to this employee’s bullying and potential violence. Since the employee is currently suspended, it is unusual that the employer would allow this person to return to the workplace. You need to alert your nurse manager to this person’s presence at the facility so security is aware and can escort her off the property if she’s seen on the premises.

Filing a police report about this incident as soon as possible is something to consider as well. Alerting law enforcement about the threats, both physical and oral, as well as the actual touching of your body, would be important. You might want to talk to a nurse attorney or attorney for help in filing a protective order prohibiting this person from continuing contact with you or behaving in this manner toward you.

In August, the American Nurses Association published its Position Statement on Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence and Bullying. The association defines bullying as “repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend and cause distress” and includes hostile remarks, verbal attacks, threats, intimidation and withholding support.

Among other recommendations, the ANA suggests employers develop comprehensive violence protection programs and also provide mechanisms for support for nursing staff who feel threatened. You did not indicate if your nurse manager intervened in any way after your call, but hopefully the manager did. If not, you can raise your concerns again and provide a copy of the ANA statement.

Sharing the suspended employee’s conduct with your risk manager would also be a good idea.


By | 2021-05-07T09:24:26-04:00 September 21st, 2015|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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