It seems odd to end Nurses Week with a post about bullying – after all, when thinking about celebrating our week, why be a “downer?” Hasn’t there been enough talk and articles about this ugly side of nursing?
But like other problems, raising awareness is usually the first step towards change. The sentinel event alert
from JCAHCO in 2008 on the dangers to patients from intimidating and disruptive behaviors spurred many organizations to look seriously at the behaviors of their staff. We saw several research reports and reviews about the phenomena of bullying among nurses, nurses and physicians, nurses and ancillary staff and students. We can’t just point fingers at the clinical setting. Cynthia Clark and colleagues reported their research
on faculty-to-faculty incivility in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Nursing Education
. In a study of 588 educators from 40 states, they found that faculty perceived this to be a “moderate to severe problem” and that it persisted because of “fear of retaliation, lack of administrative support, and lack of clear policies addressing the problem.”
But, maybe there are a few subtle signs that we’re starting to deal with bullying.
One piece of good news is that since it was first published in January 2009, Cheryl Dellasega’s article, “Bullying Among Nurses,”
always ranked among AJN
’s top 20 most viewed and most emailed articles, which to me, meant it was all too relevant. I’ve heard from more than a few nurses in the clinical setting that people are getting tired of the sniping and are confronting those responsible. Articles moved from describing the problem to reporting on dealing with it, like:
Organizations, too, are helping members with resources, such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, which developed standards
for a health work environment. The ANA has a list of resources
addressing bullying and incivility.
Later this year, look for an article in the American Journal of Nursing
on how one hospital successfully rallied staff to deal with bullying behavior.
Perhaps people are getting the message that we’re losing too many nurses because of the untenable work environment – the “toxic workplace” – that this can create. As I noted in a message I wrote in a 2011 editorial
for Nurses Week, “Our work is too important; we can’t afford to be sidetracked by bullying and other forms of relational aggression. Use this Nurses Week as a catalyst for focusing on all that we share and accomplish as colleagues.”
Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN
Editor in Chief, American Journal of Nursing