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The Effects Of Bullying On Nurses Health, And How To Cope With It

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

The Effects Of Bullying On Nurses' Health, And How To Cope With It

Bullying behaviour is sadly more common in the nursing workplace than you might realize. The victims of bullying feel constantly put down, and picked on for even the smallest of mistakes. Prolonged exposure to such a hostile environment leads to self-doubt, anxiety, loss of performance, and poor mental health.

Sadly, studies show that this negative culture can sometimes be the norm with, in some areas, up to 80% of nurses report incidents of bullying at work.

To understand the far-reaching consequences of such a negative environment, we must first

understand its effects and how to deal with them.

Understanding the Effects of Bullying on Nurses' Health

Though to many,

it may seem like harmless banter or schoolyard rivalry, it is not. Bullying has

far-reaching consequences and leaves long-term effects such as:

1. Psychological Distress: Being constantly put down in an environment that is supposed

to be your safe space can lead to a constant state of panic and distress.

2. Loss of Confidence: Having someone belittle your or be rude to you can cause you to

become unsure of your work. This is especially true when the one bullying you is your

immediate superior or senior employee.

3. Impede Effective Patient Care: A distressed nurse cannot be expected to care for their

patients effectively or efficiently. They instead need to take some time to care for


Types of Bullying Among Nurses: Recognizing the Signs

There are many ways in which a nurse can face bullying in the workplace; some of these


1. Ostracism: Being a part of a team allows you to share your happiness and loss equally.

It helps lighten your burden. So, it’s truly frustrating and upsetting to feel left behind. This

often happens to newcomers who are yet to be part of any group, and sometimes

happens to nurses who express different opinions.

2. Unfair assignments: There may be times when you clash heads with a supervisor.

Bullying may then occur in the form of the supervisor using their power to give you

complex shifts or unruly patients while giving favoured nurses good shifts and easier


3. Yelling: Anger is an easy-to-feel emotion in a high-pressure environment, especially healthcare, but constantly yelling at it isn’t a good feeling. If your coworkers

or superiors are yelling at you constantly, even for things that are not your responsibility,

then it’s an unhealthy environment.

Coping Strategies: How to Deal with Workplace Bullying

There are many ways to cope and deal with a stressful environment and bullying. Some of the more common methods involve:

1. Document the Behavior: Staying silent only encourages negative behaviour. It

allows bullies greater freedom to continue their behaviour. Whenever you encounter

bullying behaviour, document it, including the time, what happened and

who was involved. This allows you to notice patterns and have sufficient proof

to show the HR team if needed.

2. Practice Healthy Conflict Resolution: There may be times when you need to confront

a bully, but remember, this may be best in a controlled, mediated setting.

3. Get HR Involved: Though things may seem simple, it isn’t always the case. It’s

always good to be prepared, and should you feel your workplace becoming hostile, get

HR is involved as soon as you can. HR is there to deal with these situations before they

can escalate.

Bullying in nursing is an uncomfortable reality that can severely affect nurses' health and well-being. Bullying frequently results in self-doubt, anxiety, and a decline in performance, as its victims are subjected to constant demeaning and criticism. Bullying creates a negative culture that affects individual nurses and hinders effective patient care. Nevertheless, nurses must recognize that they are not alone in confronting these obstacles.

By comprehending the effects of bullying and instituting coping strategies, nurses can regain their strength and create a healthier workplace. Essential steps in addressing this issue include documenting instances of abuse, practising beneficial conflict resolution, and involving human resources when necessary. It is also vital to develop a network of supportive colleagues and seek assistance from HR or support organizations when necessary.

Remember that you are not travelling alone. Numerous nurses have faced and effectively overcome similar challenges. You can overcome the effects of abuse and emerge stronger by focusing on your strengths and resiliency and seeking support. Together, we can cultivate a workplace culture that encourages respect, collaboration, and well-being, allowing nurses to flourish in their professional roles and provide the highest quality care to patients.



  1. Do you work in a negative or positive work environment?

  2. Have you ever experienced bullying at work?

  3. How did bullying make you feel?

  4. Reflecting on your experiences, what strategies have you found most effective in coping with and overcoming bullying or negative behaviour?

  5. How can nurses empower themselves and support one another in challenging situations, fostering a culture of resilience and mutual respect?



Nurse bullying: Impact on nurses' health: Source:

Incidence and impact of workplace violence in healthcare settings: Source: American Nurses Association (ANA) National Online Survey, 2014

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