Nurse self-care: Solution to peer bullying?

Nurses who are empowered to care for themselves will not only provide better care to patients but also could help combat the widespread problem of bullying that is rampant in the nursing culture, a leading nurse educator says.

Susan Groenwald, Ph.D., R.N., president of the Chamberlain College of Nursing, a for-profit nursing school with 17 campuses across the country, believes that nurses who practice "self-care" are better able to handle the day-to-day stress of the job and have the capacity and emotional reserve to provide quality care to patients every day.

Chamberlain has introduced the practice of self-care in its curriculum and overall culture of its campuses, Groenwald, pictured right, explained during an exclusive interview with FierceHealthcare. By instilling the importance of care and respect on campus and in their daily lives, she hopes graduates will be able to change the "horrifying" culture of nurse bullying at hospitals across the country once they enter the workforce.

The infighting among nurses, which may be due to stress in the workplace and nurses feeling inferior to physicians, is a reflection of a culture the healthcare industry created, she says. It's up to healthcare executives to recognize it and lead the way to change it.

"How do we help nurses take care of themselves in that environment and on a broader scale how do we help nurse leaders change that culture? I feel our role is to model behavior and develop nurses who can be change leaders," she says.

One way organizations can change the bullying culture is to adopt a culture of care that focuses on care of self, care of colleagues and care of your environment, according to Groenwald. The college has embraced that culture, offering support to nursing students so they have the ability to handle stressful situations. "We try to help them understand that they impact the culture by their own attitude and behavior and how they treat others with respect, professionalism and integrity," she says.

Although the college environment is not the same as the chaos of the emergency department, Groenwald believes that the practices they cultivate on campus are ones that hospitals can adapt. Investing in employees' education and growth, and caring for them as individuals, will make staff feel valued--and in turn, will allow them to offer better care to patients.

Growenwald encourages hospital leaders to consider strategies to encourage this culture, such as offering nurses support groups and designating areas for respite and meditation; supporting access to continued education and conferences, and establishing discussion groups where nurses can discuss day-to-day issues and broad challenges.

"It takes tremendous amount of work but, over time, you can transform your culture," she says. "Hospitals can accomplish it too. It just takes focus."

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