Workplace Bullying Among Nurses

Nurses are vital to our health-care system. There is already a shortage of nurses, and the nurses who are employed full-time are usually overburdened with excessive responsibilities and large patient loads. Recruiting and retaining novice nurses (NN) is critical to maintaining effective and available health-care services. But workplace bullying (WPB) is limiting the number of NNs, and because of WPB, nearly one-third of all NNs plan to leave their chosen fields. Senior nurses are supposed to supervise, mentor, and teach NNs. However, some engage in verbal and emotional abuse that leave an already powerless NN feeling even more helpless and victimized. The psychological impact to the NN is devastating and can result in stress, anxiety, fear, depression, physical pain, and even suicidal thoughts. Additionally, the cognitive abilities of NNs are drastically diminished as a result of WPB, posing a significant threat to the patients in their care.

To get a better understanding of the prevalence of WPB within the nursing field, Peggy A. Berry of the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati recently led a study involving 197 NNs. The nurses were interviewed via the internet and asked to report the type of WPB they had been subjected to during the 2 years they had been working. Berry discovered that over one-fifth of all the nurses surveyed had experienced some form of WPB in the previous 6 months. Even more alarming was the disproportionately high number of NNs who reported being bullied by a nurse in a power of position within the previous 30 days. Berry believes this is particularly important because even one WPB event can cause have a substantial impact on productivity.

Because of the shortage of qualified nurses and the increasing demand for health-care services, addressing the issue of WPB among NNs is essential. Berry recommends that staff members within nursing arenas work together to create safe working conditions that support the psychological and physical well-being of the patients being served and the staff nurses serving them. She also noted that NNs who experience high levels of WPB may experience enormous mental stress and therefore could be less inclined to report the abuse to their supervisors, emphasizing the need for safe and effective avenues of communication. She added, “All nurses, novice and experienced, need to be educated to recognize WPB behavior and collaborate within their organizations without fear of retribution to eliminate WPB as a social norm.”

Berry, P. A., Gillespie, G. L., Gates, D., Schafer, J. (2012). Novice nurse productivity following workplace bullying. Journal of Nursing Scholarship 44.1, 80-87.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • nurse shannon

    April 6th, 2012 at 5:56 AM

    I have been a nurse for a lot longer than I have not been and I have never encountered anything like this. My senior or head nurses have never been anything but kind and helpful, being a mentor and also becoming friends. I am sorry to hear that there are nurses out there who do feel like they have been bullied, but I have never felt bullied on the job by my nurse co workers. Now the doctors on the floor can sometimes be pushy, but look, this is a stressful situation that most of us are working in and I think that al ot of that just goes with the territory.

  • Cheryl

    April 6th, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    No matter what line of work you are in or how much more educated you may find yourself o be over anyone else that you work with that does not give you the right to be a workplace bully.
    Our nurses are hard working individuals who chose that line of work because they love taking care of other people. They really don’t need this kind of abuse at work.

  • Ben.H

    April 7th, 2012 at 2:06 AM

    Almost every profession has a little bit of bullying at the the bosses in the corporate world count any lesser than bullies?I don’t think so!

  • stace

    April 7th, 2012 at 4:58 AM

    No matter where you work, there are going to be those in charge who get a rush and a thrill from having power over someone else. With nurses, maybe it is the RNs who get some kind of thrill with bossing around the ADNs and CNAs. Who knows! But those kind of people exist no matter what line of work you are in. The hardest thing is finding a way to manage and control that so that you don’t have to allow it to ruin a job that you may love. Hard to continue loving your workplace if there is someone there who is making working there so difficult.

  • Simon

    April 9th, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    As a male nurse, I am kind of in the minority you knw. The only place I have ever experienced this kind of bullying, and well, I am not even sure that I would call it bullying, maybe teasing, was when I was in school for my RN. How many male nurses do you know? Exactly, and there were some professors who actually made me feel that same way. Now that was kind of daunting. It was like I was some novelty that they continually had to point out and analyze. But when I finally got to the practicals and on the hospital floor, I never experienced anything like that. Nothing but support from all of my coworkers.

  • Barb H

    April 9th, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    maybe a lot of this is brought on by the stresses of the job? it can’t be easy being a nurse, feeling over worked and under paid, with the pressures growing each day as patient care more and more gets turned over to their hands

  • Nancy

    April 12th, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    what everyone has to remember there is better humans just different humans, and going into healthcare your ethics should always be caring for people. not who gets paid what, or who has say over another nurse. Maybe the nurses are like unhappy kids so they lash out

  • Blessy

    May 3rd, 2012 at 4:54 AM

    I personally do not think that there is any sort of bullying going on in hospitals.But what I have noticed is that the Novice nurse does not like to be told to do things.If u point out that there was a mistake,they don’t pay heed to it.Or they report to the incharge that seniors are Bullying them.

  • P.G.

    May 26th, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I had a client who was a young man with disabilities. He worked in a janitorial, non-nursing role. He loved his job and everyone he worked with. Unfortunately he was the victim of workplace bullying and was made to work obscene hours tirelessly. He did so with a smile because he truly loved the company.

    Unfortunately this led to him neglecting warning signs about his own health and when he brought them to the attention of his shift supervisors he was told to go back to work.

    Later he ended up passing out on the floor, being hospitalized, and later passing away. All this because bully supervisors took advantage of him.

    We need to recognize not only when this is happening to ourselves, but to those around us who cannot intercede on their own behalf.

  • look

    September 9th, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    i knew nobody like to be this situation as it not only affects on your health and wellbeings but also affects on your work performances and it is also well known to us that altered physical, mental and social health cannot give positive result whereas , as a nurses , weare expected to demonstrate an excillent health outcome for our patients with limited resources,

  • Chloe

    October 17th, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I know that I’m teetering on the edge and thinking about walking away from my house to end it. I am completely demoralized.

  • Melissa

    December 20th, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Wake up people! Workplace bullying is evident, tolerated & even rewarded EVERY DAY! Attrition rates are merely one means of calculating the losses. These days, CARE is being obliterated in the Healthcare system. It’s a shame! A zero tolerance policy should be implemented and enforced everywhere.

  • wendy

    November 17th, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    please bullying in hospitals or the care profession is absolutely rife, there is a heriarchy of power hungry people who yes are little spoilt kids in adult bodies. SISTERS ARE NOW IN THERE EARLY 20S no life experiance just there face fits or there pally with someone higher up, professionalism is a thing of the past patients care suffers because of the humiliation demorilisation dished out by the bullies to there co workers. Patients see and hear what is going on and have often remarked to me an NA how disgusting some of the nurses are. Does it affect the quality of care there trust in us when there in a vunrable position, YES. The whole nhs needs ousting and shaking up im leaveing its the most toxic poision enviroment that destroys people.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.