“Nurses do eat their young”: bullying rife in nursing

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It’s important we openly discuss some of the less attractive issues facing nurses and midwives and unfortunately bullying is one issue that continues to plague our professions. James* has been a nurse for a few years now and although he’s witnessed workplace bullying before, never has he experienced it so badly that he’s no longer at work.

Up until recently, I was working as an RN in a mental health unit at a NSW hospital. Apart from a few issues where I was being rostered on long shifts that turned out to be illegal, the work was rewarding and I had enjoyed my time there.

It wasn’t all roses though. For some time, I had put up with ongoing bullying from most of my colleagues on the unit. This was not my first time seeing bullying, having both experienced it myself as the victim and having seen other nurses experience it. After receiving advice from a colleague, I went to see the service manager for the cluster.

However the bullying didn’t stop. I contacted the service manager via email again and also copied in the Director of Nursing Mental Health for the health district. As a result of continued bullying and a lack of action, I suffered soul-destroying bullying and the number of shifts I was rostered on continued to decline, to the point where I didn’t receive shifts at all. So much for working as a nurse in mental health.

There has to be a major shift in the our profession for this to change. Nurses do eat their young. I honestly believe that statement, even though I studied my nursing degree as a mature age student, it evidently doesn’t matter how old you are.

I believe we need ongoing education and audits within workplaces to try and remove a very deep-rooted problem within the nursing and midwifery professions.

My family were not that supportive because they did not really understand exactly what was occurring. Friends and a few coworkers were very supportive but the majority in the unit, where I suffered the absolute, soul-crushing bullying, were not in the least supportive. I think because many of them were the perpetrator’s of the bullying and middle management were very much against me. The service manager was supportive initially and did some follow up. Unfortunately, I have never and will obviously never receive a formal apology.

I should hope that no one else experiences bullying to the degree I suffered. However, I know bullying remains common in our profession. There have been many good nurses and midwives just leave because of bullying. It has been a terrible time for me and I would not wish it on anyone.

James’ name has been changed to protect his identity. 

James’ story was originally published in December 2017, and has been re-published to coincide with this year’s World Day of Bullying Prevention. 


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