Nurses Against Nurses

I just finished reading and marking some papers from a nursing course.  The assignment included interviewing an advanced practice nurse and discussing her scope of practice, workplace, collaborative network and any barriers to practice.  It was an interesting assignment.  However, one thing that struck me was the term horizontal violence.  It is a term that is used to describe interpersonal conflict among nurses; also called lateral violence, or bullying.  The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, in Canada, defines workplace violence as an incident of aggression that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or psychological that occurs when nurses are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work.  Horizontal violence occurs when any of these incidents arise between nurses. It’s been cited as an issue in nursing, particularly where novice grads experience conflict arising from experienced grads.

It was terribly discouraging to learn that professional bullying, horizontal violence continues to be a problem in any part of nursing.  It’s hard enough entering into stressful and difficult nursing positions without having to also contend with difficult work relationships with colleagues.  There are many things that perpetuate horizontal violence; arising from the individual, members of the health care team, the organization, regulation and more.  The outcomes are not good and include such things as blows to confidence of the new grad, higher rates of absenteeism and many new nurses make the decision to leave the profession based on their treatment at work.

I can’t help but feel that the issue can be discussed forever, but nothing will change until we each make a personal commitment to ensure that it doesn’t continue. We need to reflect on our own behaviour with our nursing colleagues and identify and mitigate situations where bullying is occurring.  Nursing will never reach its potential unless we eliminate bullying toward each other.

Roberta Heale


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