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Causes of Bullying in Nursing


The relationship between medical staff is an important aspect that determines the quality of work in a particular institution and the healthcare system as a whole. However, in the practice of even the most well-known and respected clinics, one can find cases of bullying, which often arise among nurses. The humiliation of the personal dignity of employees is a serious violation of nursing ethics, and if the behavior of junior medical personnel does not meet the established standards of communication, it makes one doubt the qualifications and competence of workers. In order to assess this problem from different perspectives, the reasons for bullying need to be defined to understand what factors influence conflicts in the nursing collective and cause the humiliation of some employees by others.

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Factors Influencing Bullying

The cases of moral humiliation in nursing communities may have a different background. According to Wright and Khatri (2015), “the frequency of bullying in the workplace is alarming and even more so because bullying incidences are usually underreported” (p. 140). It should force the heads of medical departments to pay particular attention to the relationship in the team and to resolve any conflicts timely. Quite often, inadequate leadership and indifference to employee relationships are the causes of disagreement, and because of failures to take action, bullying cases increase.

Different researchers give various reasons for bullying in the nursing team. Strandmark, Rahm, Wilde Larsson, Nordström, and Rystedt (2017) offer a version that the reason is the rough assessment of victims’ work and the inclination of some employees to violate the moral and ethical norms of communication. Granstra (2015) mentions the concept of horizontal bullying, that is, directly among employees of the same rank. According to the author, “several factors, such as a hierarchical workplace culture, increase the likeliness of bullying taking place” (Granstra, 2015, p. 250). Different conflict background, however, requires timely interventions because disagreements in the team not only exert a depressing effect on the victims of bullying but also adversely influence the work process and, as a consequence, patient outcomes.

Methods to Combat Bullying

A few important steps should be taken in order to stop humiliation among colleagues. First of all, as Wilson (2016) remarks, “an important first step in dealing with bullying is for the individual to recognize and admit that they are being bullied” (p. 305). Timely complaints to management may allow stopping moral pressure from other employees. The author also mentions humor as one of the effective ways to overcome bullying (Wilson, 2016). If a nurse does not take humiliation seriously and shows offenders that their words and deeds have no response except for laughter, it will certainly put them to a standstill and stop the moral pressure. On the whole, one of the key ways is not to succumb to bullying. If it causes severe discomfort, it is essential to seek help from those who can stop this unscrupulous employee’s behavior.


Determining the factors that influence bullying in nursing can help to assess the reasons for this behavior among employees and to find ways to deal with it. Adequate and timely managers’ responses are significant since conflict resolution is the essential component of successful leadership. Despite the different backgrounds of bullying, humiliation always brings discomfort to victims and adversely affects the quality of care and patient outcomes.


Granstra, K. (2015). Nurse against nurse: Horizontal bullying in the nursing profession. Journal of Healthcare Management, 60(4), 249-257.

Strandmark K, M., Rahm, G., Wilde Larsson, B., Nordström, G., & Rystedt, I. (2017). Preventive strategies and processes to counteract bullying in health care settings: Focus group discussions. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 38(2), 113-121. Web.

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Wilson, J. L. (2016). An exploration of bullying behaviours in nursing: A review of the literature. British Journal of Nursing, 25(6), 303-306. Web.

Wright, W., & Khatri, N. (2015). Bullying among nursing staff: Relationship with psychological/behavioral responses of nurses and medical errors. Health Care Management Review, 40(2), 139-147. Web.

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