nurse bullyingWe’ve all heard the phrase “nurses eat their young.” Unfortunately, many of us have experienced it as well. And there’s a new area of nurse bullying on the horizon that was virtually nonexistent a generation ago.

As new gadgets and gizmos appear in our units, there is a new segment of the nursing population experiencing the berating and belittling that used to be reserved for brand new nurses. This is bullying directed toward our seasoned but technology-challenged veterans.

Not a Laughing Matter

When I was working in the area of home health, at first I found the older nurses’ struggles with technology comical, in a way. The administration had recently introduced a new computer charting system. The task began of not only teaching the new system, but also teaching the seasoned nurses how to use a computer in the first place. I had to laugh out loud when I heard one of our 25-year veterans loudly say from the next office, “Double click? Double click? What does that mean?”

As I heard the exclamation from the other room about double clicking, I could virtually see the rolling of the eyes of the younger nurse trying to teach her older colleague. The younger nurse in this situation was very patient and calm in her teaching. However, I could just imagine how the situation could deteriorate under different circumstances and lead to a case of nurse bullying.

Veterans Under the Microscope

Why is this situation so potentially disastrous? Here’s an illustration which we can all identify with. Under normal circumstances, we can drive our cars effortlessly and without errors. We can draw upon our training and years of experience to guide us through the process effortlessly.

But what if there’s a police officer driving behind us? Suddenly every thought, every movement, even every reflex becomes a conscious act. Our nervousness and agitation can cause us to make mistakes that we would not normally make.

The same holds true for a veteran nurse who can, under normal circumstances, handle a load of seven patients with ease. But that changes when this same nurse is placed under a microscope, belittled and harassed by those who may be a little more knowledgeable in certain areas such as technology. Just as a graduate nurse can make unnecessary mistakes when constantly harassed, the same can hold true for our treasured seasoned nurses.

Measures Against Bullying

What is the solution? How can we retain our nurses who have a wealth of experience to share, but who work among less patient, less admiring, younger coworkers? The solution needs to lie with the management and with the initiation of a no-tolerance policy against bullying in any way. That’s regardless of the abuse being directed at the newly hired or those who are near the end of their nursing careers.

We in the nursing community hold precious lives in our hands. Should we not encourage one another and, at times, help our coworkers to function at their best as we all move toward the goal of excellent patient care? Perhaps we can all find the same voice of compassion toward one another that we direct toward our patients and put an end to nurse bullying

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