At some point, we have all likely witnessed behavior from one colleague toward another that was disrespectful, impolite, or downright rude. The topic of workplace incivility calls to mind several examples from my own experience, where I had to step in to shield a colleague from the cruel words or actions of another nurse.
The most troubling example that I have seen in my career behavior directed toward a new graduate nurse, who was transitioning from a successful career in business to the emergency department. This nurse brought years of experience as an adult in the workplace, rich experiences as a parent, several advanced degrees, a calm demeanor, and an easy-going personality. As an adult learner and career-changer, this nurse was highly motivated, eager to learn the rules of the unit, quick to master tactile skills, and asked excellent questions. There was one problem; this nurse made an early enemy, for unknown reasons, with a nurse who was one of the most out-spoken nurses in that department. This seasoned nurse was in a position of power, and was deeply involved with the day to day management of the unit. When it came to room assignments, scheduling, patient assignments, or breaks, there was no doubt who her least favorite nurse on that unit was.
Please, picture both of these nurses. Would it surprise you to learn that the new graduate nurse was a man? I am happy to report that thanks to supportive colleagues, this lateral violence did not drive out the new nurse. He persisted, developed, and flourished in that department, despite being treated with derision by the nurse who bullied him. It has been ten years since he joined that team, enthusiastically seeking guidance and mentorship from those more experienced than he was at that time, only to be repaid with disrespect and rudeness from a fellow nurse in a position of power. In the ensuing years, he has generously offered help and mentorship to assist other new graduates as they transition into the new and sometimes overwhelming role of nurse.
Our beloved profession can be taxing on the body and spirit. With all of the pressures we face in our units every day as we take care of patients with increasingly complex comorbidities, there is no room for the added stress of lateral violence. As nurses and members of the profession most trusted by the American public, we are not here to push each other down, but to help one another up. What we permit, we promote, and it is incumbent on all of us to draw a line in the sand and say “enough” when it comes to workplace incivility.
Jessica Ann Emmons, MSN, CRNA