In Observation of Antibullying Month

In Observation of Antibullying Month

Tina Spagnola, MSN, RN, NE-BC, NPD=BC

October marks the observance of antibullying month, and it is disappointing to see that bullying persists in the nursing profession. However, if we join forces, we can bring about a change and make bullying entirely unacceptable.

According to the American Nurses Association, nurse bullying is defined as "repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend, and cause distress in the recipient." (ANA, 2015). Unfortunately, the American Nurses Foundation 2022 Workplace Survey report revealed that 60% of nurses across all care settings reported experiencing one or more incidents of bullying or incivility in the past year. Disturbingly, up to 60% of new nurses leave their initial positions within their first year due to various forms of bullying or incivility from colleagues.

Bullying is associated with negative effects on both individual nurses and patient care. It has been linked to absenteeism, frequent illness, headaches, reduced productivity, increased anxiety, and depression among nurses. In some extreme cases, it has even led to thoughts of suicide. It is evident that improvements need to be made.

Bullying can be exhibited in different ways — overtly through insulting text messages or social media posts and verbal abuse such as belittlement or yelling, as well as covertly through behaviors like ostracism, lack of support, and unfair assignments.

Nonetheless, some strategies can be implemented to diminish a bully's power. While confronting a bully may not be easy for those directly affected or bystanders witnessing such behavior— it remains necessary. Here are five recommended strategies for reducing a bully's influence:

  1. Admit the existence of an issue.
  2. Address instances of bullying when they occur.
  3. Use the chain of command within your organization as necessary.
  4. Identify and articulate specific behaviors that you witness or experience.
  5. Document the behaviors for future reference.
  6. Remain conscious of your own behavior concerning bullying prevention.

As leaders, it is essential to:

  1. Commit to a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying.
  2. Create a supportive environment where individuals feel empowered to report such behaviors.
  3. Address incidents as they arise.
  4. Promote discussions on effective communication during team meetings.
  5. Lead by example, modeling good behaviors.

As dedicated professionals, we can create an environment free from bullying and incivility in nursing. By actively working together, we can generate positive changes to ensure the well-being of both nurses and optimal patient care outcomes.

 American Nurses Association. Position Statement: Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence. Published July 22, 2015.

Edmonson, Cole DNP, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, FAAN; Zelonka, Caroline BS. Our Own Worst Enemies: The Nurse Bullying Epidemic. Nursing Administration Quarterly 43(3):p 274-279, July/September 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000353

Thompson, R. (2022). Facts on Bullying, Incivility, and Disruptive Behaviors in Healthcare. Healthy Workforce Institute.

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