Prevalence of bullying at work and its association with self-esteem scores in a Spanish nurse sample

Contemp Nurse. 2012 Aug;42(1):2-10. doi: 10.5172/conu.2012.42.1.2.


Background: Bullying has been recognized as an important and increasing problem for nurses, who are faced with different kinds of bullying. Recent research has suggested a possible association between bullying and low self-esteem.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of bullying at work in a sample of Spanish nurses; to examine the association between bullying and self-esteem; and to investigate the prognostic factors that determine bullying at work.

Design: A descriptive survey study was developed to represent the population of Spanish nurses.

Participants: The sample consisted of 538 nurses who met the inclusion criteria of having worked for a minimum of one year in adult or paediatric services in the public or private heath care system of Principado de Asturias-Spain.

Methods: The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE) and the Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ) standardized for Spain were used to measure self-esteem and bullying behaviours respectively.

Results: Our results show that about one in five nurses (17%) experienced subjective bullying, and 8% of these cases reported weekly or daily bullying. The negative acts reported most frequently in bullied and non-bullied nurses were work-related bullying behaviours, such as 'Being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines' (2.71 SD = 1.33). However, bullied nurses reported significantly higher rates in all questions of the NAQ, and self-reported bullying was significantly related to low self-esteem (χ(2) = 109; p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Prevalence of self-reported bullying is high among Spanish nurses and is clearly associated with higher exposure to bullying behaviours at work and lower levels of self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bullying*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept*
  • Spain
  • Workplace