“Lisa was a new nurse who worked steady 7a-7p. Lisa was warned about the night shift nurses who had a reputation for “eating” new nurses alive! In particular, Lisa heard horror stories about Norma, the queen bully, and did her best to avoid her. One night Norma approached her. “I see that I’m not in charge tomorrow night and that I’ll be following you.” Then she leaned in closer to Lisa, and with a smirk on her face, said, “You had better make sure you give me a good report or the rest of your time here will be a nightmare. Just wanted to warn you.” Norma then gave Lisa a half smile and walked away.

Lisa had trouble sleeping that night, had diarrhea the next day, and couldn’t eat a thing. Lisa almost called off. Even though she was still on orientation and was working with a preceptor, the preceptor was also intimidated by Norma and offered no additional support. Lisa was on her own to deal with Norma.”

The above story is an Excerpt from “Do No Harm” Applies To Nurses Too!

As nurses, we are rarely alone during our shifts. We chart at the nurses station or in the hallway, we are in our patients’ rooms, or running in the hallway between the supply closet and medroom. So, sometimes, it’s difficult for the “bullies” to attack their victim because there are witnesses, especially when the boss is around.

However, there is one time during every nurse’s shift when they find themselves face-to-face with another nurse, who just might be the bully.

We are alone and vulnerable during shift report.

Some nurses use report as their opportunity to bully other nurses. I’ve heard countless stories of nurses who drill other nurses like drill sergeants, berate them for not getting everything done (humanely impossible sometimes!!), and micro-manage EVERY aspect of their documentation (you missed a period here!). One nurse shared with me that her colleague basically asked if she “counted the hairs” on her patient’s head!

And it’s not just old crusty nurses who use report as an opportunity to bully new nurses.

When I went back into clinical practice 2 years ago (I work casual on a medsurg unit to keep up with my skills), I used to DREAD giving report to certain nurses. One nurse in particular would berate me over the stupidest things. Seriously, I would leave work so frustrated!! And then I found out that she had only been a nurse for a year!

In the end, it doesn’t matter if the nurse is new, old, or somewhere in between.

Some nurses use report to bully!


1. Avoid being alone with the oncoming nurse

At this point, we should all be giving report at the bedside. But I know some nurses will try to talk you out of it. They may even say that it’s stupid and try to make YOU feel stupid for going along with it. Don’t let them. Give report in the patient’s room. Even though some nurses say awful things in front of patients, you will decrease your chances of that nurse ripping you a new one in the patient’s room. Let’s say your unit hasn’t adopted bedside report yet (what are you waiting for??), then make sure other nurses are nearby.

2. Use powerful body language

Remember, nurses who use report as an opportunity to bully other nurses WANT you to get flustered. They WANT you to show fear. They WANT to intimidate you.
Don’t let them. During report, look the person in the eye; keep your shoulders back, and your head held high. Make sure you are always at their level. If the nurse is standing, then you stand. Never give report to someone when they are standing while you are sitting.

3. Use power scripting

I’m big on scripting because I can never think fast in a situation. Oh I come up with the best responses AFTER the situation but in the moment – I’m paralyzed or say something stupid. The key is to prepare a few scripts that you can use when the bully attacks your report. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Help me to understand… why you are nit-picking; why this information (# hairs on the head) if necessary for you to do your job; how this impacts patient care, etc.”

“I’m not willing to respond to that.” – great when someone says something nasty.

“Just because I don’t know EVERY detail regarding this patient doesn’t mean I’m not a good nurse.”

“I’m receptive to feedback. However, if you are not willing to deliver that feedback in a respectful manner, I’m not willing to listen to it.”

In Lisa’s case, she spend her entire shift making sure she knew everything about her patients so that she could give Norma a great report. However, Lisa spent more time memorizing the patient’s history, labs, etc. instead of taking care of them! She did give Norma a great report but at what cost to Lisa AND to her patients?

Isn’t it time that we stop accepting nurse bullying as the norm?

I hope this tip helps YOU to do YOUR part to end nurse bullying.

ReneeThompson_013_HRThanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!


If you like this post, I recommend the following:
1. Share with your colleagues and friends using the social share buttons.
2. Subscribe to my blog.
3. Sign up to receive my latest updates and other resources via my website.

Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations who want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at renee@rtconnections.com to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.