Addressing Nurse-to-Nurse Bullying to Promote Nurse Retention

By Rocker, Carol F. | Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Addressing Nurse-to-Nurse Bullying to Promote Nurse Retention


Rocker, Carol F., Online Journal of Issues in Nursing


Abstract

Nurse-to-nurse bullying in the workforce is contributing to the current nursing shortage. The literature reveals both victims and witnesses of bullying suffer silently and are often confused as to what to do when presented with bullying behavior. This confusion frequently contributes to nurses leaving their chosen profession. Canadian lawmakers are now beginning to address workplace bulling behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness of the challenges associated with workplace bullying among nurses by defining and describing the incidence and origin of workplace bullying; reporting the nature of and consequences of workplace bullying for both victims and witnesses; presenting the Canadian legal response, strategies to support victims, and approaches preventing workplace bullying; and considering the nurse manager's role in addressing workplace bullying.

Citation: Rocker, C., (August 29, 2008) "Addressing Nurse-to-Nurse Bullying to Promote Nurse Retention" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing; Vol 13 No. 3. Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/vol132008/No3Sept08/ArticlePreviousTopic/NursetoNurseBullying.aspx

Key Words: bullying, bullying culture, horizontal violence, peer harassment, psychological harassment, preventing workplace bullying, psychological terrorization, nurses and bullying, nurse manager and workplace bullying, nursing shortage, workplace violence

Bullying among nurses in Canada is a problem that drains nurses of both energy and productivity. The Canadian Bureau of National Affairs, Individual Employee Rights Newsletter (2000) reported that bullying is not related to race or gender; rather it is a symptom of emotional distress. Regularly persons in authority positions appear either to not recognize bullying or to reject this concern (Lewis, 2004; Pearce, 2001). Nurses frequently feel at a loss when it comes to controlling the bullying behavior of other nurses. These feelings of helplessness lead to an increase in absenteeism, stress leave, and resignations, all of which contribute to the nursing shortage and cost the healthcare system millions of dollars each year in employee benefits, retention, and recruitment costs (Bureau of National Affairs, 2000).

The nursing shortage is a major concern in Canada. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (2007) reported that Canada had 252,948 registered nurses employed in 2006; 92% of these were Canadian graduates and 8% were International graduates. The number of nurses graduating in Canada has increased 5.3% from 2000 to 2005 (Canadian Nurses Association, 2008). Still, Shields and Wilkins (2005) stated in "The National Survey Report of Work and Health of Nurses "that the Canadian nursing shortage will only increase. Much of this nursing shortage has its roots in human resource management issues, such as failure to control workplace bullying (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007). The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of the challenges associated with workplace bullying among nurses by defining and describing the incidence and origin of workplace bullying; reporting the nature of and consequences of workplace bullying for both victims and witnesses; presenting the Canadian legal response, strategies to support victims, and approaches preventing workplace bullying; and considering the nurse manager's role in addressing workplace bullying.

Definitions of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is difficult to define. This lack of clarity has hindered the efforts of Canadian policy makers who have tried to tackle this subject. Hence, Quebec law and the Canadian Initiatives on Workplace Violence have worked to offer definitions of bullying. Quebec was the first province in Canada to amend its Labor Standards Act by defining workplace bullying. Quebec law refers to workplace bullying as psychological harassment and defines it as: Any vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee's dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that result in a harmful work environment for the employee (Canada Safety Council, 2005). …

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