Bullying–The Other “B” Word

by Angela Brooks


If another nurse rolled her eyes when you gave report, cut you off while you were asking a question, or ignored you when said you needed help wasting a narcotic, she would have been called the “b” word that rhymes with “itch,” (hereafter referred to as “witch” in deference to the Terms of Service.)

Today she’s more likely to be called another “b” word—“bully.”

Nursing Bullies – Horizontal Violence – Nurses who eat their young what does all that mean?

The expression refers to the negative and even hostile behaviors of nurses toward newcomers.

As an educator I can see the ones who have potential to be bullies or the one to be bullied. For example when a young nurse comes in to begin training for the job and she proudly says she just finished school and looking forward to working in mental health.

I smile and give encouragement, but on the inside I already know what is going to take place. She is young, brand new, unseasoned I am sending her out to work with mental health nurses who are usually very forward and hard core. Mix nursing burnout in there with that and it is a setup for only the strong willed to survive.

Nurses come out of school with their superman shirt on ready to take care of and cure the diseases that are plaguing the patience in their care. What they don’t know is they have to walk through the forest of experience to get to them.

In 25 years of mental health nursing – I have met some bullies and I have shattered of few of their dreams to control me. My mother had her hands full when I was growing up and so did the neighborhood boys. I will take someone’s crap for a little while and to see if it is a bad day, a bad week or just a bad personality….maybe they are just a bitch.

I have worked with co-workers whose personality reaches the nurses’ station before they actually walk in the door along with the deep signs from other peers the dread of the next 8 hours or 13 hours. It seems when working a shift with someone who wears their education and attitude on their sleeve it affects the whole unit – patients and employees.

I have found myself in situations that could have been avoided, but because of the bully person’s attitude it caused a patient to lose control and strike out. Not only did it put the bully at risk of getting hurt now it caused those working with her to also be at risk.

It is a ole mental health nurses tale that bullies seem to get more physical strikes from angry patients than someone who treats others with respect. Maybe the staff doesn’t seem to react as fast as they normally would to prevent that from happening. *just thinking out loud*

My door is always open for staff to stop and catch their breath or vent if needed, I hope that never changes. The nurses that come in with stress on their face and fear in their words about a person they are working with, makes me wonder why the bully feels the need to use the power of threatening and harassing as a leadership tool.

If you are working with someone that makes you feel in adequate, nervous, anxious, or intimidated. Begin keeping a journal,


write down each event and who was around and witnessed it (including patients). Be mindful of your reactions and things you respond back to the person Confusing rudeness with bullying creates an atmosphere in which the recipients feel far more victimized than the situation deserves.

Most bullies are not out to get one person but a group of people. They like to hold their shoulders back and walk around like a rooster strutting along. They cause more problems than just hurting your feelings. Make sure you know the difference.

Some people own lack of security and confidence in people can get confused with bully and pure bitch. They are both hard t

o work with but one is more damaging than the other.

My method of handling a situation is call them out on their behavior and confront the person with their ruddiness, witchy-ness or look at them as not worth my time and let it roll off my back.

From the many I have met they will implode and seem to move on down the road in time. Always throw a party once they leave it makes everyone feel better.

Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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