Bullying in nursing

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The nursing organisation workplace has been identified as one in which workplace bullying occurs quite frequently.[1][2] It is thought that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossipping and intimidation) are relevant. Relational aggression has been studied amongst girls but not so much amongst adult women.[3][4]

Various bullying permutations are possible, such as:

  • doctor or management bullying a nurse
  • nurse bullying another nurse
  • nurse bullying a patient
  • patient bullying a nurse
  • nurse bullying other healthcare providers

Bullying acts[edit]

Lewis identifies the following bullying acts in UK nursing:[5]

Such acts are frequently insidious, continuing over periods of time that may be years. Bullies are often serial bullies. The bullies are invariably aware of the damage they are doing. They undertake such actions basically to gain control and power.


Laschinger, Leiter, Day, and Gilin found that among 612 staff nurses, 67.5% had experienced incivility from their supervisors and 77.6% had experienced incivility from their coworkers.[6]

Bullying of nurses by managers[edit]

In 2003 the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association in the UK carried out a survey showing that half of health visitors, school nurses and community nurses working in the National Health Service (NHS) have been bullied by their managers. One in three of the 563 people questioned said the bullying was so bad they had to take time off work. Constant criticism and humiliation were the most common complaints. Others said they were shouted at or marginalised.[7]

Nurse bullying inventory[edit]

In order to further investigate and understand the impact of workplace bullying on the nursing work environment, an inventory was developed to address specific workplace bullying constructs within the nursing context.[1]

Associated terms[edit]

Horizontal Violence [8] is often the same term used when referring to bullying in Nursing. This term describes the appalling behavior shown by colleagues in the nursing field. Such demeaning behavior makes the work place stressful and unpleasant. Another term associated with bullying in nursing is lateral violence. This term is used to describe the effect that bullying takes on someone lower down on the ladder of workforce, making it hard to climb that ladder.

Remedial action[edit]

Some health organisations are seeking to educate staff and health care team members on how to improve social interactions, proper business etiquette, and foster positive people skills in the work environment. Nurses are entitled to monetary compensation for bullying.[9][10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hutchinson, M; Wilkes, L; Vickers, M; Jackson, D (2008). "The development and validation of a bullying inventory for the nursing workplace". Nurse researcher 15 (2): 19–29. doi:10.7748/nr2008. PMID 18283759. 
  2. ^ Porter-O'grady, T (2008). "Transforming work environments. Interview by Diane E Scott and Amanda Rosenkranz". The American nurse 40 (2): 7. PMID 18494401. 
  3. ^ Richards A, Edwards SL A Nurse's Survival Guide to the Ward (2008)[page needed]
  4. ^ Dellasega, Cheryl A. (2009). "Bullying among nurses". The American journal of nursing 109 (1): 52–8. doi:10.1097/01.NAJ.0000344039.11651.08. PMID 19112267. 
  5. ^ Lewis, Malcolm A. (2006). "Nurse bullying: Organizational considerations in the maintenance and perpetration of health care bullying cultures" (PDF). Journal of Nursing Management 14 (1): 52–8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2934.2005.00535.x. PMID 16359446. 
  6. ^ Spence Laschinger, Heather K.; Leiter, Michael; Day, Arla; Gilin, Debra (2009). "Workplace empowerment, incivility, and burnout: impact on staff nurse recruitment and retention outcomes". Journal of Nursing Management 17 (3): 302–11. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2834.2009.00999.x. PMID 19426367. 
  7. ^ NHS nurses 'bullied by managers' BBC News 11 October 2003
  8. ^ Roy, Josie. "Horizontal Violence". ADVANCE for Nurses. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Trossman, S (2008). "Behaving badly? Joint Commission issues alert aimed at improving workplace culture, patient care". The American nurse 40 (5): 1, 6, 12. PMID 19024048. 
  10. ^ Martin, William (2008). "Is Your Hospital Safe? Disruptive Behavior and Workplace Bullying" (PDF). Hospital Topics 86 (3): 21–8. doi:10.3200/HTPS.86.3.21-28. PMID 18694856. 
  11. ^ Nurse Work Injury Compensation Eoin Campbell Injury Compensation Zone
  12. ^ Kerfoot, KM (2008). "Leadership, civility, and the 'no jerks' rule". Medsurg nursing 17 (6): 441–2. PMID 19248414. 

Further reading[edit]


  • Button SM Bullying of a nursing student: a mixed interpretive study (2007)
  • Dellasega C When Nurses Hurt Nurses: Recognizing and Overcoming The Cycles of Bullying (2011)
  • Nurses and the experience of bullying at work: a report for the Claire Thomson, Working Women's Centre (Adelaide, S. Aust.), Australian Nursing Federation. S.A. Branch - 1998
  • Thompson R "Do No Harm" Applies To Nurses Too! (2012)
  • Webb C, Randle J Workplace Bullying in the NHS (2006)

Academic papers[edit]