Bullying of staff registered nurses in the workplace: a preliminary study for developing personal and organizational strategies for the transformation of hostile to healthy workplace environments

J Prof Nurs. Sep-Oct 2009;25(5):299-306. doi: 10.1016/j.profnurs.2009.01.022.

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to validate the perceptions of frequency and patterns of bullying behavior experienced by registered nurses (RNs) across the United States. This study was completed to develop relevant and sensitive tailored interventions for the future. A 30-item anonymous electronic survey was used to identify the frequency, type, perpetrators, and personal and professional consequences of bullying. Findings from the overall population of 303 RN respondents (mean age of 49 years) indicated that 70% of the bullying was reported by a predominant group of staff RNs (n = 212), and it is this group that is the focus of this report. Of this group, bullying occurred (a) most frequently in medical-surgical (23%), critical care (18%), emergency (12%), operating room/Post Anesthesia Care Unit (9%), and obstetrical (7%) areas of care and (b) within the 5 years or less of employment on a unit (57%). Perpetrators included senior nurses (24%), charge nurses (17%), nurse managers (14%), and physicians (8%) who publicly humiliated, isolated, excluded, or excessively criticized the staff nurses. Subsequent stress levels were reported as moderate or severe, with support found primarily with family, colleagues, and friends and not with an available workplace infrastructure of solution. Many left the workplace completely with or without jobs awaiting them. Bullying among U.S. nurses is a hidden problem with significant patient-directed quality performance and workforce implications. It is critical that innovative strategies be developed and implemented to address the root cause of this problem.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Employment / organization & administration
  • Employment / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Facility Environment / organization & administration
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital* / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital* / psychology
  • Occupational Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Organizational Culture
  • Personnel Turnover / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Support
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workplace* / organization & administration
  • Workplace* / psychology