How Can Educators Prevent Bullying in Online Nursing Programs?

By Linda Carl on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

nurse bullyingNurse bullying is not a new topic. Frankly, the word has evolved over the decades and incidents categorized under this term have now spilled over to online nursing programs. These include backstabbing, gossiping, sabotage, being rude, impoliteness, discourteous behaviors, having a lack of respect or manners, vulgarity, nurses eating their young — well, you get the picture.

This unprofessional behavior has been part of the nursing profession for decades and is still the same thing by any other name. It is one reason why the profession fails to become a strong player in the global professional marketplace. Publications are replete with articles about incivility among members of the nursing profession at work in a clinical setting. And it is starting to surface in online classrooms, another forum where nurses can engage in professional misconduct that sometimes reach the level of criminal impertinence.

Meanwhile, educators in distance learning programs have a major role in creating a positive learning environment. These are by communicating expectations, establishing policies, being impartial and fair within the confines of the rules, and by modeling respect that learners can emulate.

Given the role of the educator, how can bullying still happen in online nursing programs?

Bullying can be any unsocial behavior that runs the range of simply being rude to being violent. It can be the result of stress, pressures to succeed, or a sense of entitlement. 

So what can be done to prevent or minimize bullying in the online classroom? 

  • Start with a clear list of unacceptable behaviors. This should be contained in a student code of conduct policy. There must be also an administration that supports enforcement when there is a severe breach of professional nursing codes of conduct.
  • Apply consequences when the first signs of bullying happen, to stop the behavior before it escalates.
  • Create a warm, welcoming online learning environment. This can be done by having a welcome conference call for the class or by using innovative, technology-rich teaching strategies that keep learning fun.
  • Teaching stress management with early intervention and remediation plans can also help.

Finally, when bullying rears its ugly head, intervene early but don’t take the bait. Recognize that you have a problem and need to address it by serving as a professional role model instead. When all else fails, contact your first line supervisor for academic intervention because disruptive behavior begs the question. Do we really want to teach that bullying is an acceptable behavior in nursing education by turning a blind eye to the misconduct? Or do we want to teach accountability, tolerance, and professionalism in nursing, as a colleague and a mentor? You decide!

In your opinion, what is the cause of nurse bullying in online nursing programs? Leave a comment below.