horizontal violence, vertical violence, oppression, bullying, renee thompson, rtconnections

Almost every day a nurse reaches out to me asking for help to deal with a bullying situation at work. It breaks my heart to hear their stories of sabotage, backstabbing, exclusion and down right meanness by their co-workers and sometimes – boss.
Many nurses suffer physical, emotional and psychological damage from bullying, some to the point of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I remember one nurse who shared her story with me on the phone. As she shared the details of her bullying, she was so emotional. Several times she had to pause to compose herself.  I could hear it in her voice how traumatized she was by the gang of bullies who tortured her. When I asked her how long ago it happened, she said it was over 10 years!!! Based on how emotional she was as she told the story, I really thought the bullying was a recent experience!
Make no mistake about it. Bullying leaves scars.
Many victims of bullying think they’re powerlessto do anything about it, especially if tortured by a gang of bullies or if the bully is their boss. However, that’s what the bullies WANT you to think.
The bullies are wrong!
Every time a nurse shares his/her bullying story with me, I ask this question: “Have you documented your experiences?” In most cases, the answer is no.
Documenting your experiences is the most powerful weapon you have against bullying.
I received an update from a nurse who reached out to me last year regarding a bullying situation resulting in HER termination from employment. This nurse had been documenting her experiences all along – dates, times, verbatim comments, facts, etc. She decided to take legal action against her employer and the bullies and sought the help from an attorney. Although it was a long road, she just won her case!
In her update, she thanked me for supporting her and other nurses who are victims of bullying and shared the following advice:
“**IMPORTANT** Document, document, document everything you see, hear, and suspect to be occurring. This proved to be vital to my case, as the themes I documented in my notes (while still employed) and had given to my attorney well before the discovery (sharing of records) process began approximately two years later. As discovery began, it became more & more evident how much of what I suspected to be occurring was occurring during the 8-10 months prior to termination.”
I’m so happy for her that her experience was validated and that she is being compensated for her pain and suffering.
Action step
If you are being bullied, START DOCUMENTING your experiences. Keep a small notebook with you and jot down dates, times, witnesses, verbatim comments, and any facts you believe constitute bullying behavior. Keep growing this documentation trail until you are at the point where you can file a formal complaint.
You don’t have to just take the abuse. You can do something it. Nurses deserve to work in nurturing and supportive environments – free from the bullies!
Please note: sometimes the bullying is so bad that I recommend leaving. The negative impact to your health isn’t worth it.
Also, not everyone seeks legal counsel but it is an option. If you plan to seek legal counsel, please review your Nurses State Practice Act for guidance.
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Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read your comments about the topic of nurse bullying. Together, we can do something to stop bad behavior in a profession dedicated to caring and compassion.