AORN: Nurse bullying is extremely common, and patients may suffer, too


Nurse bullying is incredibly common, but such behavior may be hard to recognize--and the bullies themselves may not even realize they’re doing it.

The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses hosted a discussion on the issue through Facebook earlier this week, and nurses commenting on the stream noted experiences that ran the gamut from an offhand comment to repeated intimidation. And other nurses, doctors and healthcare leaders are often the culprits. 

Linda Groah, R.N., executive director and CEO of AORN, said in the video that such behavior is enough to make both new and veteran nurses question their choice of profession.

Indeed, even rolling your eyes at a new trainee or acting impatient as a new employee learns the ropes can have a real, negative impact on a young nurse, said Lisa Spruce, R.N., the organization’s director of evidence-practice. Making new staff members feel excluded or treating them differently can also hurt team morale, she said.

"Nurses are such a caring, compassionate and kind group of people, who treat our patients amazingly well, but then sometimes with each other we don't do so well," she said in the video.  

AORN is coordinating a series of leadership seminars on bullying, titled “Bringing Shadow Behavior into the Light of Day,” which run through November. Gayle Davis, AORN’s director of corporate communications, said it’s important that nurses, physicians and industry leaders all understand what bullying is and how common it is, so that they can support victims and train bullies on better behavior.

Groah noted that it's crucial that leaders learn more about bullying because survey data has found that only 30 percent of managers actually did anything about reported bullying.

In addition to the mental toll bullying can take on nurses--who are already at incredibly high risk for stress and burnout--such behavior may also hurt patients.  "There is potential for patient harm in those situations…if you feel like a fool for bringing something up, the next time around you're not going to be so likely to speak up," Groah said.