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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Hospital Bullying: Docs & Nurse Face Off

Published May 9, 2011 4:20 PM by Guest Blogger
Guest blogger Kristen Ziegler is on staff at ADVANCE as an editor for our sister publication, ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine.

Hospital workplace bullying has become a hot button topic and this weekend, oncology nurse Theresa Brown pushed the issue to the boiling point. In an editorial published in the New York Times, Brown took physicians to task for establishing an oppressive hospital culture. Now, some prominent docs are firing back at Brown, accusing the nurse of bullying docs. Their ammo? Her own words.

The Atlantic's columnist Ford Vox, a brain injury physician, calls Brown's writing "concerning and ethically dubious."  "She gives enough detail in the column that many people at her hospital, especially ‘the entire medical team' present at the time, will know precisely whom she's making an example out of."

Dr. Kevin Pho, an internal medicine doc who writes for USA Today, said Brown wields her "prominent media platform" to "metaphorically bully the entire physician profession." (Read more.)

But if Brown's a bully, then so are they. Their public criticism reinforce what Brown carefully illustrated in her column, that the overall mentality in some hospitals is "I'm a doctor, don't question me." That can't be good for patient care.

(To be fair, Brown also has written about nurse bullies too.)

The real issue, of course, is what is bullying and how can we stop it. After his knee-jerk reaction, Dr. Pho, came back to the problem with a second, more thoughtful column backing Brown's call for more education about workplace bullying. He added that "change needs to start down below ... from the time students first step foot in medical school."

But truthfully, change needs to come from people, not policies. Nurses need to step up and encourage their colleagues to do the same. Make it clear that bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.

As a first step, we're hosting a webinar with workplace bullying expert Linda Steffens, MSN, RN, CCRN about how to identify and stop bullying in your workplace. We hope you'll join us. Register for the May 18 event here. Bring your questions about workplace bullying or leave them in the comment section. 





posted by Guest Blogger


If you are being bullied I hope you'll visit my website, I have a lot of information there, as well as links to many other resources online. I am a consultant and trainer on the topic of workplace bullying and can work with your organization to end it.

Catherine Mattice May 11, 2011 1:05 PM

Thank you for sharing this, I have experienced bullying at every level since I started as a graduate nurse 32 yrs ago. Let's all address it, the nursing shortage is real and bullying makes it worse.

L, OR - RN May 11, 2011 12:06 PM

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