Nursing needs to confront a culture of bullying

Who knew nursing could be so abusive?

Nurse Theresa Brown, in a blog post from the New York Times’ Well, reveals the ugly side of nursing.

It’s known within hospital walls that “nurses eat their young.” Indeed, as Brown writes, “the expression is standard lore among nurses, and it means bullying, harassment, whatever you want to call it. It’s that harsh, sometimes abusive treatment of new nurses that is entrenched on some hospital floors and schools of nursing.”

But isn’t this prevalent in most professions? Medicine, in particular, can have a culture similar to what was described above, with common stories of interns and medical students being bullied by more senior house officers.

The problem is when those who are bullied refuse to fight back. This perpetuates the cycle, as those who are overwhelmed and angry “take their frustration out on the rest of us stuck in the corner with them, or on anyone — like interns — they perceive as being less powerful than they are.”

Openly discussing and publicizing the problem can help, not only within nursing circles, but in medical and surgical residencies as well.

The majority, of course, do not bully. Their voices need to set the tone.