How to Stop Infighting and Nurse Bullying

How to Stop Infighting and Nurse Bullying

Recognize and confront infighting and bullying on your nurse team.

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

While nurses are superheroes to their patients, behind the scenes, they are normal people. And like all normal people, they are prone to disagreements, fighting, and even bullying. In a survey of 4,000 nurses, 18 percent of them said that they were verbally abused by a fellow nurse. Unfortunately, this type of bickering is extremely detrimental to maintaining a functioning team. In the same survey, 25 percent of nurses said that collaboration was fair or poor, while 22 percent said that they had a fair or poor level of respect for other nurses.

Why does such bullying occur? Many people believe that the stressful environment of hospitals and doctors’ offices exacerbates tension and anxiety, cashing nurses to lash out at one another. Additionally, since several nurses tend to care for one patient, they may see it as a struggle for power instead of a collaborative task. Even worse, when nurses are reprimanded by doctors or higher ups, they often release their frustration on the floor.

Whatever the cause, it’s up to nurse managers to put an end to nurse bullying. Without trust and respect for each other, nurses may begin to provide subpar patient care. Patients should always be at the forefront of a nurse’s mind, and that just isn’t possible when they are brewing over their feud with a fellow peer. Nurse bullying can also lead to high turnover rates, causing hospitals to lose large amounts of money. The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses estimates that it takes $30,000 to $50,000 to provide orientation to a new perioperative nurse. If nurses keep quitting because of dissatisfaction, these costs will continue to add up.

By enacting new policies, nursing leaders can take control of the situation and help nursing staff get along better.

Confront Those Causing Problems

The first step nursing leaders should take is to pull aside those nurses who seem to be in the middle of most of the issues. Often, many nurses may not realize the conflicts they are causing. By explaining to them the disruptions they are promoting, they may be able to alter their behavior accordingly.

If that doesn’t work, leaders might need to take formal action against them, such as suspension, depending on how hostile they are acting.

Create a Welcome Program

Part of having a peaceful environment in a hospital is teaching new nurses to act appropriately. That way, there won’t be any negative influences disrupting the balance of the workplace. One way nursing leaders can do this is by creating a welcome program for new hires. This program could involve group activities to help new nurses feel like they are part of the team instead of an unwanted add-on. These might include icebreakers or a happy hour outside of work.

Provide a Good Example of How to Behave

Often, employees mimic the behavior of their leaders. Therefore, leadership has to strive to provide an excellent example of workplace acceptance and bonding. This includes being friendly to everyone, regardless of what is going on. Leaders should also try to provide equal treatment so that there are no favorites.

Once workers see how leadership is behaving, it will be that much easier for them to act the same way. Kindness is contagious, and it has to start somewhere.

Offer Opportunities for Self-Care and Bonding

Much of the conflict in a nursing workplace is due to stress and anxiety. Leaders can eliminate these factors by giving nurses the ability to  care for themselves. Providing break opportunities, healthy lunch options, and reducing over-scheduling are all ways to help nurses feel more calm and peaceful.

In addition, leaders should give nurses a chance to bond outside the workplace. They could organize a team for trivia night at a local restaurant or even invite the staff over to their house for a small social event.

Change won’t happen all at once. In fact, it might take several months for nurses to settle their feuds and the bullying to cease. However, once leaders are able to get it under control, the workplace will be that much more successful, especially with patient care outcomes.

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