Bullies exist in nursing, and you might just find one in the mirror

A survey by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing found widespread racism in nursing.Of the respondents, 63% of nurses say they’ve experienced racism in the workplace.The survey also found: 69% of Hispanic respondents reported personally experiencing racism.In addition, 73% of Asian nurses reported experiencing racism.Black nurses were the most likely to report experiencing racism, with 92% of Black nurses responded reporting personally experiencing racism

Bullies don’t exist just in schools. Nurse bullying, or lateral violence, as nurse.com calls it, can heighten tension and create a toxic workplace.

Lateral violence is described as “nonphysical, aggressive, hostile and/or harmful behavior between co-workers,” and it can compromise patient care.

Unlike physical bullying, lateral violence can be subtle. In fact, you might have participated in this type of harassment without realizing it’s considered bullying.

Have you, or has someone you work with, ever:

  • Used your power to manipulate or control others?
  • Intentionally withheld information a co-worker might need to do their job?
  • Mocked or publicly shamed a co-worker?
  • Intimidated a co-worker through verbal threats of disciplinary action?
  • Refused to help or offer guidance when needed?
  • Issued unfair assignments or downplayed others’ accomplishments?
  • Raised your voice at a co-worker?
  • Refused to look at a co-worker when speaking to them or rolled your eyes at them?
  • Gossiped or spread rumors about co-workers?
  • Excluded co-workers, or made sarcastic or belittling comments to them?

“I have worked with nurses who are clearly a bully and yet they would be shocked if someone called them out on their bullying behavior,” Amy Loughren, RN, told nurse.com. “There seems to be a lack of self-insight as bullies tend to believe their intimidations are warranted rather than harmful and hurtful.”

Loughren is the inspiration for the 2013 true crime book and Netflix film “The Good Nurse,” as well as the documentary “Capturing the Killer Nurse.”

If you are being bullied, or you know someone who is, nurse.org recommends you:

  • Ask for help
  • Tell the bully their behavior is unacceptable — silence implies consent
  • Clearly communicate how you would like to be treated
  • Carefully document every detail of the bullying
  • Offer support and assistance to the colleague being harassed.
  • Follow the chain of command to register a complaint with a third-party organization, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, if your management does not take your feedback seriously.

“Dealing with nurse bullying is challenging, especially in environments where such behavior is an accepted part of the culture,” Loughren added. “It’s up to organizations to address bullying and create a culture in which nurses feel comfortable reporting instances of bullying.”