Bullying Harassment and Lateral Violence Are Real In Nursing Today

Nurse bullying, lateral violence and harassment are widespread phenomenon in healthcare today. A lot of nurses who are victim of bullying do not recognize the fact that they are being bullied. The majority reported uncomfortable behavior but didn’t think it was a form of nursing bullying.

Lateral violence refers to acts that occur between colleagues, where bullying is described as acts perpetrated by one in a higher level of authority and occur over time. The acts can be covert or overt acts of verbal or non-verbal aggression. Relational aggression is a type of bullying typified by psychological abuse. Behaviors include gossiping, withholding information and ostracism. Behaviors can extend outside the workplace and can occur in person or in cyberspace. (Dellasega, C.2009).

Have you ever been bullied, harassed or experienced lateral violence as a nurse or as a healthcare professional? The following are some of the comments we received from our facebook page.

Sue Savasta-Crabtree I have not personally been a victim of bullying but many of my new nurses tell me that the reason they leave a hospital environment is due to bullying.

Fact: Most victims of bullying do not recognize the fact that they are being bullied. Some nurses don’t realize facial expressions, rudeness, practical jokes are forms of bullying.

Fancy Griffith Yes! Especially when my nurse manager complements me… Then it’s really bad! I never knew how petty grown women can be until I became a nurse… Sad!


Jenny Broberg Yes, as a new nurse…had a nurse literally say she would be on my case until I quit. I reported this to management & their advice was to just ignore her. Needless to say, I got out of that toxic environment. That is the only time I have run into a nurse bully.

Such behaviors should be reported to nurse managers. Nurse managers ought to listen and investigate such claims without any bias.

Daniel Linder Yep, harassment. Wasn’t “accepted” by a small knit group of icu nurses and heard snickering, horrible comments about me…because I came from a Level 1 Neuro ICU and needed a little help getting used to medical icu patients.

“Cliques” reinforce bullying making it seem like it is an acceptable behavior. Such Cliques often gang together against the victim.

Michele Byrne I’ll never forget how I felt when I was put on a hall where there was a burn patient who needed a dressing change… I needed explanation of the treatment and I was told to “figure it out!” … I would never do that to anyone!

Being given a task that does not fit your skill level is a form of nursing bullying and harassment.

Emman Domingcil when I was still at my undergraduate years, I experienced being humiliated by a staff nurse in front of a patient. I really felt so down that time. However, this incident served as an inspiration for me to strive harder. As I am now a professional nurse, I keep telling myself not to do the same thing which the staff nurse did to me when I was still learning.

Zero bullying tolerance is one of the best ways to eradicate nurse bullying. Whether the behavior resulted in a positive inspiration does not justify the behavior.

Angie Kostelnik Been there! Frequent attempts to drag me down when I was a student. I learned to kill them with kindness.

Retaliating a bullying behavior causes work place violence. Reporting to the chain of command is the way

Tiffany Ryan Recently graduated nursing school and the phrase, “Nurses eat their young” was definitely experienced. I found it was more frequent in older nurses – they were in our shoes once before, why do they feel the need to put us down?

Old “nursing culture” is not a justification for bullying either.

Allison Waters Thomason My very first day off of orientation I sobbed all the way home and wondered why I ever wanted to be a nurse after the way I was treated by this one “old” nurse whom I had formerly respected. Happy to say that, 3 years later, I am still a nurse, in the same position, and I nurture and respect and help our new grads and students. Bullying is wrong and some nurses do “eat their young.” This is unacceptable behavior and just because it may have been done to you doesn’t mean that you have to do it to others


April Monetti I was told in nursing school that in the field, “nurses eat their young”- I found out how true it was sad to say. But on the brighter side, I have chosen to not fall into that stereotype & welcome students with open arms & a friendly environment to learn & urge them to do the same when they are out in practice. We must remember- we were ALL students @ one time!!


Cathy Parks Brody Nurses can be some of the cruelest people I know. I love being a nurse but hate that it is full of people who back stab, gossip, make false accusations, etc… We need to be a team! Maybe they should bring back team nursing but only if you can pick your team.
My preceptor was awesome though. It was when I changed shifts that the bad stuff happened. They loved dumping on me as a new nurse. I would have twice the work load of my older peers. I cried many days on my way home.

What is the Impact of Lateral Violence and Bullying in Nursing?

• 40% of clinicians “kept quiet” or “ignored” an improper medication due to an intimidating colleague (Institute for Safe Medication Practices, 2004).

• Unmanaged anger contributes to hypertension, coronary artery disease, depression, psychological problems or other health problems (Meyers, 2006).

• Low staff morale, increased absenteeism, attrition of staff, deterioration in the quality of patient care. (Hughes 2008).

• Nurses leave the profession due to lateral violence and bullying contributing to the nursing shortage.



What’s your take?

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