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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Lessons on Bullying - and Liberty

Published June 17, 2013 8:52 AM by Linda Jones
I live close to Philadelphia. It's a great city full of parks, theater, music and museums. If you are ever in the area for a conference, it's worth extending your stay. As a local, it's fun to do the "touristy" things, but since I can do this regularly I don't have to see the Barnes or the Art Museum because I don't know when I'll be back again, so I can do the lesser-known exhibits, like the Mütter Museum, or, one I discovered this past weekend, the National Liberty Museum.

Like liberty itself, the museum's mission is "dedicated to preserving freedom and democracy by fostering good character and understanding for all people through education." The museum offers an intense view of people who have suffered loss of liberty and those who have fought to protect or regain other people's liberty as well as their own. It addresses everything from religious persecution to honoring those who lost their lives in 9/11 to those impacted by physical or mental challenges.

The stories and messages are complemented by glass artwork including several pieces by Chihuly. And, of course, there is a children's area to teach our youth about civility and protecting and respecting each other.

As I walked through this section of the exhibit I thought: nurses should have to visit this museum as part of their licensure renewal. Each time we post an article about nurse bullying, horizontal violence or professional intimidation, we get comments for days from nurses who experience this. Bullying is rampant in nursing.

Liberty is the state of being free within society [or workplace] from oppressive restrictions [or meanness] imposed by authority [or co-worker] on one's ways of life [or work life]. I wonder if we called it oppression, or pointed out that liberties are at risk, rather than labeling it bullying, nurses would think twice about their actions and words.

To help kids understand liberty and civility there were a few exercises I thought could be used on a nursing unit. Visitors are invited to write down harmful names they have been called or have called others then put the list into a shredder to symbolically erase the harmful names from having an impact on them. There was also a forgiveness bridge, where you think about someone you are holding a grudge against or just don't like; or someone who has been unkind to you. When you cross the bridge, you leave the ill-feelings behind and move forward.

Finally there are mirrors and you see your own reflection multiple times and are reminded that this one person you are seeing can make a difference. Guidelines to achieve this are presented. Maybe these guidelines should be posted in nursing units. They are reprinted here with permission of the museum:

10 Ways to Resolve Conflicts

  1. Listen more. Talk less. It helps you understand the other person's point of view.
  2. Ask when you want something. Making demands only makes things worse.
  3. Focus on the problem, not the person. It's the only way to solve a disagreement.
  4. Always deal with the problem at hand. Never bring up old issues or resentments.
  5. Take responsibility for your part in conflicts. Your view may not be completely right either.
  6. Express your feelings without blaming the other person. Blame never solves anything.
  7. Always talk things out. Never use physical force to express your anger.
  8. Choose your words carefully. Once a word is spoken it cannot be taken back.
  9. Look for a solution that is agreeable to both parties. If one person isn't satisfied, the problem isn't solved.
  10. Step back and put the problem into perspective. A problem you have today may not seem so bad tomorrow.

P.S. If you visit Philly, skip the cheese steak; there are so many better food options in this city.

Read More:A New Way to ‘Face’ Nurse Bullies

Social media provides new outlets for nurses to address horizontal violence and support each other.

posted by Linda Jones

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