‘Nurses Do Eat Their Young’ – Bullying Still Rife Among Nurses

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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.

We appreciate James sharing his story. If you have a story to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We will keep your identity anonymous.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Hi ‘James’, I’ve responded to blogs on this subject (bullying) before. Somehow the ‘nurses eating their young’ is an international phenomenon and I recently researched this topic and submitted an Abstract for an educators’ conference. It has to stop, not only is it detrimental to the health of nurses, it negatively impacts on patient care. It is also in breach of both the NMBA Standards for Practice and the Code of Conduct.
    My advice and encouragement to you is find a working environment, like I have, that does not allow bullying. The culture is set by the Manager and after my ‘new grad year’ back in 2006 (aged 57!) I was allowed to transfer to a ‘non-bullying culture’ ward where I was able to grow my skills and work towards my dream – that is, becoming a nurse educator (with a transfer to another sector altogether). I recently ran into my helpful NUM and thanked her.
    This experience will make you more resilient, and teach you to avoid bullies. They have no insight into how dangerous they are or even what underlying factors in their own personal and/or professional lives undermines their own professionalism and integrity.
    All the best….

  2. I completed my nursing studies in my fifties too. I thought I had a lot to offer, after all I have multiple degrees and decades of experience in health care. Nursing was to be a springboard to greater things. It didn’t eventuate. Two weeks in and hell on earth started. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, I started taking it out on the one’s I loved …. At my age I didn’t need this! If this was/is nursing, then nursing be damned. Nine months in I left and haven’t looked back. I miss the wards, but I certainly don’t miss the culture.

  3. Hi. I have myself & many other work colleagues experienced the same horrendous treatment…particularly working in mental health. Middle management & top management were involved…boys club!! Left no where to go with complaints, in fact made it worse. I no longer work there & neither do other victims, while they still have their jobs, recruiting others into their vile group. They used to plot, plan & laugh about how to torment their next victim & feel exceptionally proud of themselves when they succeeded. Work to them was a social scene & amusement not only tormenting staff but pts. A staff member suicided over this harassment & bullying. Still not one of them was man enough to stand up & say enough is enough!! I now suffer anxiety & depression & felt I had to leave the state to gain control of my life again. I have found a job in another area of nursing, after relocating & at a huge financial cost and am now happy, but still fragile. Unfortunately bullying still occurs but i have never seen it to that degree & hope I never will again!!!

    • “Not only tormenting staff but pts.”
      That isn’t just bullying, it reads more like corrupt behaviour. Document everything. What a nightmare.

  4. Yes nurses do eat there young. But not quite true. RNs eat the ENs and AINs.
    I Work in a outpatient clinic and I have a RN that gives me such a hard time. She is always at me and never leaves me alone. No mater what I say to my manager doesn’t help I’m not the only one she bullies. There are at least another 6 in our department. Including New Grads. I now suffer depression and anxiety. That I’ve felt close to ending it.
    It seems some RNs just get away with it
    I have been nursing for 37 years and this has been the worst for me. At least I’m nearing retirement age

  5. James’*Name has been changed to protect identity. Applying that to the bullies gets you no where.
    Name and shame the bullies that’s my solution put the pressure back on them to address their behaviour. What is needed is a referee at Health Practitioner registration level sorry but union level is useless the union been at “Nurses eat their own” since Flo lit the first lamp wick. No good going to management middle or otherwise they have the biggest appetites.

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