Nursing Wit & Wisdom

Inspire and Be Inspired, Nightingales!

Nurses and the Football Team

Nov 15, 2019 | Clinical Challenge | 0 comments

Do Nurses and a High School football team have anything in common?  Is there anything we can learn from each other?  I believe there is… and we can.

It’s about bullying.  And finding ways to stop it.

KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |

While bullying is pervasive across multitudes of school yards, fraternities and sororities and hierarchy-related job and career entities such as the military, it has always been a source of curiousity, surprise and disappointment to me that it is present in Nursing.

I think about similar professional service professions such as police, firemen, paramedics/EMTs and the military, and their commitment to each other.  And yes, I am quite clear and aware that they are not without their own issues… but they display a culture that has a reputation based in teamwork.  Nursing, to some, has a culture with a reputation for throwing each other under the bus.

How is that possible?  

Michele R. Haselhuhn, RN, in her Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner thesis gives a review of the literature in regards as to attempting to define bullying:

“Bullying has been difficult to conceptualize because there is no consistent  definition (Paterson, McComish, & Aitken, 1997). Literature distinguishes bullying from “bad behavior” and “disciplinary action” which are intermittent. Overall, bullying is “generalized workplace abuse” (Namie & Namie, 2000, p. 6) that is persistent,
nonsexual, occurs without physical violence, involves an imbalance of power or
privilege, escalates from less to more severe behaviors, and result in a negative effect
on the nurse (Keashly & Jagatic, 2003; Rayner & Hoel, 1997)…. “

 Ms. Haselhuhn, RN, [NP candidate] continues with a list of her literature based research results of bullying behavior categories and examples of behaviors that include:

“Hostility, Dirty looks/gestures;  Invasion of personal space, Curt tones of voice, Social exclusion/isolation; Silent treatment, Making light of bullying,  Calling the nurse “crazy”; Referring the nurse to workplace counselors, Harassment, Pressure not to claim employee benefits;  Excessively critical, Repeated reminders of errors and mistakes, Intolerance; Inpatience, Intimidation, False/exaggerated incident reports against the nurse; shouting/yelling/swearing, Throwing objects, Failure of manager to maintain hostile-free work environment, Insulting or threatening phone messages/emails, Attempting to turn others against the nurse, Unfair treatment, Threats, Humiliation, Deception/lying, Vindictive, Hinting that the nurse should quit or transfer, Verbally attacking the nurse in public/private, Withholding pertinent information from the nurse, blocking opportunities for promotion/training, Excessive monitoring, Unreasonable deadlines, Defamation: false attack against the nurse’s reputation, Excessive teasing or cruelty, Excessive sarcasm and Destruction of property.”

While I do believe that there are growth spurts to professional maturity, I also believe that as a profession we have the ability and professional responsibility to understand and foster the differences between growth, maturity and bullying.

 And I fully believe that we can do it.

As a new nurse myself, almost 30 years ago, I was not one that had any history of bullying or peer ptressure.  And I was in the band and orchestra since I was 8 years old.  It wasn’t that I was oblivious to it, it was that I loved what I was doing so much, I focused my sights on those with academia, achievements and plans.  They were also the ones who mentored, tutored and were leaders of students in their own rights.

However, in my first two years of nursing, I met up with bullying and intimation that I had no reference how to deal with.

At first, I was stunned and surprised.  The newness of it usually shocked me into tears.  At first.

Then, I started finding camaraderie with other new nurses that, like me, weren’t interested in giving in… or seeking revenge.  We were more interested in supporting, mentoring, assisting and making ourselves available to others, rather than letting the bullys run over us.  We were getting in trouble helping float nurses find equipment or learn unit routines.  It didn’t make sense.

Our little new graduate group looked out for each other.  We didn’t forage or further the bullying on others.  We didn’t see revenge.  We were detailed and attentive to our work… and to each other.  And eventually that in itself stopped the bullying.  

In my second year, I met a nurse manager of another unit who did programs and talks in the hospital about teamwork.  We started talking about my experiences, the things I and our group were doing and, the work she was doing in trying to stop nurse bullying [this was 1987].  She offered me a job on her unit.  And that path started me on a trajectory of meeting nursing leaders that fostered teamwork, mentoring and leadership… especially at the bedside.  They were some of my greatest mentors.

As my career grew, and I had more opportunities in precepting, orientation program development, education and mentoring, it became important to me to educate, build and support leaders and leadership behaviors in myself, my preceptor students and my nursing students and orientees.  Some of my proudest accomplishments in precepting and education have been turning around and healing situations in which nurses have been bullied.  And in return, it has been my greatest pleasure to watch those nurses grow and foster and support other nurses after them.

We have to be committed to building cultures of teamwork, mentoring and support.

On my unit, we are creating ‘Transition Mentors”.  Myself and some of the other senior precepting staff have stepped up and taken new nurses who have had some difficulty with bullying under our wing. We look out for great assignments, have us assigned in their pod, check in frequently to see how they are doing, invite, engage them in impromtu learning opportunities, have meal breaks together and encourage meals together with the group.


Our new nurses are more engaged than ever, transitioning out of orientation easier and are socializing easier into our groups. It has made for happier staff all around!

And, the best part is, that by fostering, demonstrating this behavior and pulling in others to this attentive, purposeful and mindful way of growing our new nurses, we are redefining our social culture.

The change has been subliminal and painless to most and inspiring to those who want to change their behaviors.

I don’t believe there is a place for bullying in a profession that focuses on caring for others.

I do believe that as Nightingales, we can be to each other what we are to our patients and families… caring, supportive, engaging, educational, mentors and, safe.

My Clinical Challenge [ok, challenges] to you today is…  

a.  Think about the kind of culture you engage in on your unit.
b.  Think about the kind of teamwork and mentor behavior you display personally on your unit.
c.  Consider if you have been and are… a Mentor or a Monster?
d.  Be aware of the new nurses on your unit when you go to work today.
e.  Seek them out… and give a piece of positive feedback or observation today.  Not criticism.  Positive observation.
f.  If you don’t immediately see something… FIND SOMETHING NICE TO SAY.  It’s there.  You will find it.
g.  Offer to help a new nurse – BEFORE – they ask for help.  Don’t let them fall so you can stand over them and pick
      them up.
h.  Consider the difference in YOU… when you behave as a Nightingale Mentor and not a Monster.  You will feel great!

Gandhi said, “BE THE CHANGE you want to see in the world”.  

You can do this Nightingales!  You CAN change your culture to incorporate Nightingale values.

I believe in YOU!  

Please leave a comment on ideas or changes you have made on your unit and how it affected your culture.  There are other Nightingales who could use your wisdom!

Inspire and Be Inspired, Nightingales!

Adult Bullying Within Nursing Workplaces: Strategies to Address a Significant Occupational Stressor; Michele R. Haselhuhn, RN, BSN, MSN, CCRN, CEN, EMT-P; Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Intern; University of Michigan; School of Nursing; N699; August 18, 2005
Hobbs Football Players Team Up With Kids Getting Bullied.  Kim Powell.  October 30, 2014


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