It has been said that nurses eat their own. Although this phrase may seem particularly harsh, nurse-to-nurse aggression does exist to the detriment of the profession. Nurses are vital to our health-care system. There is a nursing shortage in the United States and Australia. The existing nurses are employed full-time, usually working twelve hour shifts and are overburdened with unachievable responsibilities and large patient assignments. Recruiting and retaining new nurses is critical to maintaining effective and accessible health-care services. Nearly one-third of all new nurses plan to leave the nursing field within their first year of practice. The psychological impact of bullying can be devastating to nurses and can cause stress, anxiety, fear, depression, physical pain, work injuries, and even suicidal thoughts. The cognitive abilities of the bullied nurse are diminished resulting in lack of confidence and self-doubt that distracts them from their duties and can result in serious consequences to patients in their care as well as injury to the bullied nurse.
These factors reflect negatively on the health care organization by damaging the reputation of the institution, which in turn has an effect on recruitment and retention of qualified nurses. Monetary consequences to the organization include increased use of sick time, possible injury of distracted, impaired nurse and litigation resulting from malpractice or worker’s compensation. Organizations must develop a zero-tolerance policy and provide education to help inform nursing staff that bullying is not acceptable workplace behavior.
In Australia, the Queensland nurses union was asked to comment on workplace bullying by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment. In the submission dated June, 2012, the Queensland Nurses Union referred to the Prevention of Workplace Harassment Code of Practice 2004, to provide a definition used for bullying in the nursing field. Under the code it states that ‘workplace harassment’ is when a person is subjected to repeated behavior, other than behavior amounting to sexual harassment, by a person, including the person’s employer or a co-worker or group of co-workers of the person that is: unwelcome and unsolicited; the person considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating, or threatening; a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, humiliating, intimidating, or threatening (QNU, 2012). The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) defines bullying in their policy as repeated unreasonable behavior directed toward and employee or group or employees that creates a risk to the psychological or physical health or safety of the employee/s. Bullying can be direct or indirect, physical or psychological, and it need not be intentional (ANF, 2011).
In the United States, The Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit organization that accredits health care organizations and...