Bullying among nurses needs to stop

I do not wish simply to use the buzz word of the hour. Nor do I wish to assert that I have all the answers.

I genuinely desire to bring to light an interesting conflict that has plagued the nursing profession for decades.


Why in a profession centered around the concepts of compassion, caring, and healing has a mindset of bullying permeated the culture. Even more confusing is that most often, this bullying is a “lateral aggression,” not one of superior to subordinate.

We have all heard the phrase “nurses eat their own.” Most of us have experienced it.

An older coworker of mine once told me of a time when she was a young nurse. The more experienced nurses literally made them sit on the floor during handoff reports.

This is an extreme example, but I think this thinking still exists even if we are not forcing new nurses to physically sit on the floor.

There have been no major studies in the United States regarding the bullying issue in the nursing profession.

Interestingly enough, as of January 1, 2009, the Joint Commission requires a process in place for handling intimidating behavior among nurses.

Obviously, this bullying is known in the healthcare world, but no one seems to be talking about it.

Is it because nursing came about as a female dominated profession in the midst of a male dominated society? Females possibly feel the need to be aggressive in a business sense much like men. Nurses feel they need to hold on to what they have or it may be taken out from under them.

Possibly: Younger nurses will never know what older nurses went through. Young ones have it so easy and can never understand what we, as older nurses, went through for them to be where they are. They will never know what I know.

A few studies have been conducted abroad, mainly in Europe, regarding this phenomenon. Most agree that about 50% of nurses admit to have been bullied by other nurses.

Whatever the reason, we need to put aside our selfish ambitions and get back to the root of the profession.

We need to fix this.

Sarah Beth Cowherd is a nurse who blogs at SaraBethRN.com.

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