1. Section Editor(s): Donnelly, Gloria F. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor-in-Chief

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Bullying, relational aggression, power plays, and interpersonal stress are part of modern nursing's landscape. Perhaps, these phenomena are a reflection of the larger culture's glorification of interpersonal conflict through politics, reality TV, and motion pictures such as the "Mean Girls." Perhaps, these phenomena are the result of too little emphasis in nursing education on how to behave like a professional; how to follow a code of ethics that includes caring for colleagues as well as patients. However, I believe that there is a simpler explanation for rampant negativity in the culture of nursing-the fading of an ethos of personal responsibility and self-care, 2 pillars of the holistic lifestyle.

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Consider this story! A small faction of nursing staff had formed to advance the cause of "their candidate" to emerge as the new unit manager. Soliciting staff to speak against the nurse manager was focused and systematic. Members of the faction took different approaches-some solicited support for their candidate by demeaning the work, the age, or the ethnic background of the current manager. Others recommended leaving anonymous, negative messages about the current manager in the administration's WebBox with the hope of provoking a change. Many staff members succumbed to the pressure of the faction and participated in the negative campaign, some willingly and some reluctantly. Not Libby-she took a very different stand.


When approached, Libby dispassionately asked a series of questions. "What evidence exist that the current manager is not doing a good job? Has unit turnover been higher on our unit than others? And what about patient satisfaction, is it low on our unit compared with others?" The faction member was taken aback and responded with sweeping generalities; "It is a new day! We deserve new leadership. We are a different generation of nurses than our current unit manager." Libby was not buying the arguments. In fact, she said,


I am not going to put myself in the position of giving negative feedback about this manager when I have not had negative experiences. It would not be a responsible action and my self-respect would be considerably diminished were I to participate in this unfounded, negative campaign. If you can make a compelling case for my participation, I will listen, if you cannot, I am not interested.


Underpinning Libby's actions are 3 foundational precepts of holism: self-control, self-care, and self-responsibility. Libby had command of her emotions and her thoughts. She exercised self-control and asked her questions before making any commitment to participate in the negativity. Her stance was an act of self-care, that is, she consciously maintained her personal integrity in the face of peer pressure and negative emotionality. Finally, Libby demonstrated self-responsibility in that she considered the information presented to her, found it wanting, and clearly expressed her reasons for declining to participate. Ultimately, the attempted coup failed since there was so little support for the uninformed campaign of the "power-seeking" faction. Self-control, self-care, and self-responsibility build immunity to interpersonal stress and ground us when the winds of negativity are storming around us.


-Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN