Bullying in Healthcare is a Global Issue

FollowFollow on FacebookFollow on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterFollow on LinkedInFollow on TumblrPin on Pinterest

Bullying behavior is not confined to the United States, I confirmed when I was teachi
ng in Australia in May. After I presented about bullying at the International Council of Nurses Quadrennial Conference in Melbourne, Australia, several nurses from other countries spoke to me about bullying in their countries.

Bullying is offensive, intimidating or insulting behavior that upsets the recipient, who feels humiliated or vulnerable. It includes gossiping, backstabbing, and scapegoating that undermining staff morale, self worth and team cohesiveness.

What makes bullying such a universal issue?

  • Is it the disparity in power and status between nurses and other healthcare providers, such as physicians?angry surgeon
  • Is it the stress of the healthcare environment?
  • Is it that until recently, such behavior was considered the norm?
  • Is it the difficulty in changing attitudes?

Dr. Alan Rosenstein, who counsels bullying physicians, told me that his research shows that 15-20% of all adverse medical events are due to disruptive behavior. Attorneys and legal nurse consultants will eventually encounter a case in which disruptive behavior led to patient harm. The role of intimidation may not become clearly revealed, as many healthcare providers would be reluctant to testify about their hesitation to confront a bully.

Although The Joint Commission, which accredits healthcare organizations world-wide has standards which require organizations to address disruptive behavior, bullying has not been stamped out. Bullying is a particularly dangerous activity within health care. The delivery of health care is complex and requires coordination of efforts and sharing of information. Staff who are intimidated avoid communicating with the intimidator. Nurses intimidated by physicians don’t question orders, don’t speak up as a patient advocate, and don’t seek help for patients.

Our healthcare environment in the U.S. is changing as we recognize the high costs of bullying: turnover, absenteeism, law suits, and patient harm. My presentation revealed that other cultures struggle with the issue as well. We have much work to do to make bullying a thing of the past.

Patricia IIyer-sm-300x300yer MSN RN LNCC is president of Med League. She presented two papers at the International Council of Nurses in Melbourne, Australia: The Impact of Bulling and Patient Education through Teleseminars. Check out the CE cruise for Nurses she is hosting June of 2015- www.patiyer.com/bbb for more information.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Communication in Healthcare, Complexity in nursing, Diversity, Nurse Entreprenuers, Nurse Leadership, Patient Safety, Workplace Bullying and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bullying in Healthcare is a Global Issue

  1. Hi Pat,
    Thank you for your insightful post and congratulations for bringing this work and dialogue to the International Council of Nurses. I believe that bullying is systemic in our culture as well as others b/c it is human behavior that has some roots in days when dominance and survival were linked. If we are going to eliminate or at least minimize aggression and passive-aggression from healthcare workplaces, (and school yards and other organizations) we must be will to teach and promote “soft” skills that are hard to measure and easy to dismiss or undervalue. Respectful communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence skills, behaviors, and capacities must be developed in order to provide safe, quality care, and experience rewarding careers. I think the opposite of bullying is respect and leaders who are seeking to cultivate will be successful when they focus on work (such as Improv for Healthcare Professionals! http://bit.ly/132UZGJ) that engages, coaches, and facilitates this kind of learning! Again, thank you so much for your critical work. 🙂 Beth

What are your thoughts?