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Help end bullying in your workplace

Who among us has never known a bully, never been bullied or observed someone else being the victim of a bully? I doubt there is one person who could answer this question with a “not me,” except perhaps a bully.

Bullying has been defined in many ways, but one definition of importance to nurses is the American Nurses Association’s characterization. In its July 2015 position statement, “Incivility, Bullying and Workplace Violence,” bullying is defined as “repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend and cause distress in the recipient.”

Bullying includes hostile remarks, intimidation, verbal abuse, humiliation, threats, social isolation and blaming. It most often comes from one in a higher position and over a period of time. Whatever its source, it is unacceptable.

Bullying can result in low morale, deterioration in patient care, a loss of dignity and unresolved anger, which can lead to depression, hypertension and other health problems. Thus, the ANA has taken the position in its position statement that the nursing profession will no longer tolerate violence, bullying and workplace incivility. Because you as a nurse have an obligation, both legally and ethically, to “create an ethical environment and culture of civility and kindness, treating colleagues, employees, students and others with dignity and respect,” according to the ANA’s 2001 Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements, you also deserve the same treatment.

Such a position requires that you, first and foremost, internalize the conviction that you have an obligation to help create an ethical and safe environment for all with whom you work and for whom you provide care. Also, you must internalize the belief that you are worthy of and should expect the same approach towards you from those with whom you work.

You’ll also need to resist the temptation to gossip about others, blame others for their shortcomings or isolate a staff member whom you don’t particularly like.

Developing a style of communication that is open, respectful and clear also will be needed, so that people with whom you speak can hear what you say rather than discarding your message because of how you said it.

Working with others isn’t always easy and problems will arise. If you have an issue with one of your fellow workers or you don’t really like your new nurse manager, bring the issue or concern directly to that person and try and resolve it rather than sharing your feelings with others. Doing so won’t resolve the problems and can exacerbate them in many ways.

And, if you are a victim of bullying of any kind, immediately share your experience with your nurse manager or CNO in the hopes of resolving the problem before it festers into a larger one. Follow your institution’s policy about reporting bullying.

In short, become a leader in destroying bullying in your workplace. You might be quite surprised with the results that follow.

NOTE: Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice.

By | 2016-03-02T21:22:26-05:00 March 2nd, 2016|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|3 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.


  1. Avatar
    Kat Capone August 28, 2016 at 2:08 am - Reply

    I have been bullied by my DON for over 8 months, I have utilized the chain of command and still no relief. Where do I start to get help?

  2. Avatar
    Kat Capone August 28, 2016 at 2:11 am - Reply

    I have been ridiculed, screamed at and bullied for 8 months with no relief from my DON and have utilized the proper chain of command without relief. Where can I go to get help?

  3. Avatar
    Anonymous September 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    I have been bullied. Not with aggression, though.
    I have been shamed, ignored, their source of gossip, I am excluded from them asking anything from me. Or I the ability to ask anything from them – for it confirms my work abilities are way below there level.
    Making matters worse. They have reported negative and false accusations about my job performance to my administrators.
    I attempted to clarify the false accusations with my director. The advise I was given is to keep silent and hope I’m not a problem child.
    Now, I feel I’m viewed like a problem child. I have no support. My work is affected. My moral is quickly declining.
    I love what I do. I don’t know what else to do.

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