In any workplace, it can be a challenge to deal with your coworkers. Put a bunch of people with different personalities together, and you’re bound to end up with some conflict. But the field of nursing in particular is prone to issues like bullying, and some nurses even consider bullying a rite of passage or something that simply comes with the territory. Read on to learn more about what constitutes bullying and how you can successfully cope with it.

What is nurse bullying?

Bullying in the workplace is typically made up of a series of repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that’s meant to humiliate, degrade, offend, or intimidate a particular person or group of people. This behavior may be made up of verbal comments, negative physical contact, and other acts that are meant to isolate and hurt others mentally. Bullying can also be a way to assert power over coworkers.

In the nursing field, a pervasive bullying culture has developed, and it’s contributed quite a bit to the growing nurse shortage. In addition, many nurses leave their first jobs as a result of bullying from other nurses in the workplace. This bullying culture has detrimental effects such as a poor work environment, lower patient satisfaction scores, higher nurse turnover, and increased risk to patients. It actually costs the average hospital millions of dollars each year!

What are some ways to cope with nurse bullying?

If you’re being bullied in the workplace, it’s completely normal to feel upset and frustrated. After all, shouldn’t we have left this behavior behind back in elementary school? But the unfortunate reality is that there will always be bullies out there, and the bullying culture that has pervaded the nursing field is something that will take time, effort, and systemic changes to improve. In the meantime, here are some ways to cope with bullying.

1. Report instances of bullying when necessary.One isolated incident may not require you to speak with superiors, but once bullying becomes a pattern, it’s best to inform others of the situation. Try to stay calm and collected and explain the situation from an objective, unbiased viewpoint. It’s good to speak up when you’re being targeted, but try to avoid using an accusatory tone and displaying a negative attitude.

2. Don’t engage with the bully. If you’re like most people, you probably get the urge to fire back at anyone who is rude, disrespectful, or downright mean to you. But engaging with the bully will only lead to greater conflict. Instead, remain composed and make the choice to be the bigger person, as hard as it may be.

3. Don’t gossip or get others involved. After a bullying incident takes place, you might want to confide in other coworkers or ensure that others are on your side. This isn’t a good choice because it will only add to the issue. It’s totally fine to vent to others about your feelings, but try to speak to people in your support system that you don’t work with in order to avoid further drama.

4. Maintain a strong mindset. Knowing your worth and having plenty of confidence is very important in general, but it can be especially helpful if you’re being bullied. It’s a good idea to work on your mental health and make sure you have healthy coping strategies to turn to. Counseling or therapy may also be very beneficial. BetterHelp and other online counseling services are great resources to check out if you’re interested in learning more about mental health or speaking to a mental health professional.

5. Set a good example. Don’t contribute to the bullying culture. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It can be tempting to bully others at times because you may feel that if you had to go through it, everyone else should have to go through it, too. But this is a very damaging and dangerous mindset, so stick to the golden rule instead.

6. Focus on your job. Rather than getting caught up in the social aspects of your job, remember why you became a nurse. You’re there to help patients, not to spend all of your time focusing on workplace drama. When you begin to concentrate on your relationships with other nurses, the care you give to patients isn’t likely to be as high-quality as it should be.

7. Understand the things you don’t have control over. In reality, all you can do is show up to work and do your best every day. If other nurses make the decision to bully you, you unfortunately don’t have control over their decisions. So rather than focusing on the things that are out of your hands, put all your effort into the things that you do have power over.

8. Don’t take it personally. Oftentimes, nurses bully others because they were bullied when they first started their careers. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re targeting you personally for a specific reason; if you weren’t there, it’s extremely likely that they’d just move on to bullying someone else. Although it’s easier said than done to not take bullying personally, it’s very important to understand that you don’t deserve to be bullied and that bullying says more about the bully themselves than the victim.

9. Empathize with the bully. It may sound strange, but try to put yourself in the bully’s shoes and consider the things they may be going through that have led them to act out in this way. Chances are, they’re extremely stressed and have been the victim of bullying in the past. Although this doesn’t excuse their actions, being able to understand why they feel that they need to bully others can be helpful.

10. Take time to cool off when needed. It’s completely understandable if you need to take a few quiet moments to yourself to breathe, count to ten, and calm down enough that you don’t feel the need to fire back at the bully. Remember that it’s normal to have an emotional reaction when others are unkind and disrespectful, but it’s how you choose to act in response to those emotions that shows your character.


This article was contributed by Marie Miguel who has been a writer and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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