Nurses bullying other nurses. This is NOT a new problem. Social media has introduced a new way of bullying: bullying other nurses online. This time, the bullies get to hide behind a screen, so the words become more cruel and more justified by the perpetrator. We’ve all heard the horrifying stories of adolescents and children bullying at school and online which reaches a point of suicide of the victims. You would think once adolescents reach adulthood, they would grow up and this bullying nonsense would stop. It doesn’t stop. It continues. You would think nurses would have the professionalism to not be bullies. It’s not the case. Sad truth. The internet should be a bully free zone. We have the right to a safe environment, physically and emotionally.
Nurses Bullying Nurses
Nurses bullying nurses is not new. The WorkPlace Bullying Institute has an excellent article out, entitled NurseZone.Com: Nurse Bullying. An Ongoing Problem in the Health Care Workplace. According to this article from 2013, 18-31 percent of nurses have experienced some form of bullying in the workplace. While this article is speaking about workplace bullying, one very important comment made, points out under-reporting. “One problem that seems to perpetuate bullying in health care is the underreporting of threatening and intimidating behavior.”
I’ve not seen online bullying between nurses to the extent of workplace bullying. However, when I’ve seen it, the words exchanged seem to be much more abusive and angry in nature. Do people feel hiding behind a screen somehow safeguards them, and they can get away with saying whatever they want?
Nurses Bullying Other Nurses Online
Social Media has evolved over the past 20 years. I remember when AOL had “chat rooms” and our worlds started to expand. The first MAJOR social media forum which continues today is Facebook. The other is Twitter. By far, since Facebook has no character limits, it’s an easy way for people to say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it, and write as much as they want. Nurses bullying other nurses has now advanced to a new level. Nurses hiding behind a screen, feeling anonymous, and saying whatever they want about other people.
Definition of a Nurse Bully
Bullies are bullies. Nurses bullying other nurses It doesn’t matter if they are nurses, teachers, lawyers, or stay at home moms. Bullies are brutal, uncontrollable, exhibit low self-esteem (even though THEY feel like they are superior), and is really yearning for attention. Nurses aren’t exempt from this behavior. I’ve seen many examples recently where there is just NO filter on posts, and most I’ve seen have not been provoked. Out of the blue nurses feel the need to mention specific people. It’s one thing to make a status update for example that you are tired of working with lazy nurses (which honestly still is inappropriate as you should NOT be discussing your workplace online). It’s an entirely DIFFERENT situation to create an unprovoked status update, naming people, and then verbally attacking responders who don’t see eye to eye with the verbal attacks.
NOBULLYING.COM has an interesting article related to cyber-bullying called Adult Cyber-bullying: Harassment in the Information Age. The article talks about Internet Trolls. Here is their definition:
“Adult cyber bullying often takes the form of “trolling”. The word comes from a reference to the method of catching fish by trolling a baited line in the water and waiting for a fish to bite. In the same sense, the Internet troll tries to “catch” an unsuspecting victim to demean and humiliate. Trolls are an annoying problem for those who use the Internet regularly. They are present on social media and in the comments sections of various websites, articles, blogs, and other online forums.“
This article also points out: “It is also against the law to “harass, annoy, or offend another person.”
Nurse Bullying Examples
For the past several years, I’ve seen nurses bullying other nurses online and have experienced it myself to the point I I’ve blocked people. I have several nurse bullying examples to share.
My personal beliefs on social/moral issues is just that. MY beliefs. I shared a picture one day that was beautiful to me. It was the picture of a tiny unborn baby. I make the comment that I loved all life, from pre-birth, until very elderly. I honestly wasn’t making a statement for or against abortion. It was just a beautiful picture, and reminded me of life. I had several nurses take offense to that, and start attacking my belief system, and verbally insulted me for my choice of picture. They harassed me to the point I blocked them. I was sent links to articles trying to belittle what they thought were my views. They questioned my intelligence as a nurse and I set boundaries. I wasn’t going to allow their opinions of me to have any sort of power over me. First of all, it didn’t require a response from those nurses. Second, my sharing was none of their business, and third, it didn’t shake who I was.
Recently, as nurses bloggers and nurse entrepreneurs have made their way to the forefront, so have their criticizers. I have one nurse friend who is awesomely talented and gifted in the Internet Technology arena. I’m SO thankful for her. She has the background of a clinical nurse and has been able to contribute greatly to the world of nursing as she bridges the gap between nursing and technology. Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, (aka The Nerdy Nurse) has authored a book called The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology. There was a nurse blogger did a book review, and called into question the author’s credentials. She also commented against her branding (fun nurse cartoon caricature trying to also share serious content), and went into depth about a few spelling or grammatical errors. She then went on to criticize that the author received some income as an affiliate marketer. Truly, how a nurse entrepreneur creates income was really not any business of that blogger. It wasn’t necessary for the book review. I re-read the review today. It didn’t reflect on the author to me. I know her. She is real. When you don’t really know someone, you may not truly be capturing the whole picture when you decide to write.
A few months ago, there was a nurse who felt compelled to lash out at nurses who are overweight. She herself admits to having a past weight issue, and now that she has lost some of her weight, she somehow feels it is OK to speak up against overweight nurses. She was making a correlation between weight and nursing competence. That wouldn’t be as horrible as it sounds, but this nurse has been on a social media forum where she lashed out personally at people for being overweight. There is more to weight, than being fat & in this article I wrote about fat nurses. What if, we as nurses supported our peers in victories and struggles, instead of throwing out judgement? What was the intention of lashing out against overweight nurses? Did it serve as a way to help? No… In my eyes it made me lose any respect I had for this nurse, and I have unfollowed and unfriended her on social media.
A nurse recently made an unprovoked comment, speaking out against Scrubs Magazine, and Katie Duke, where she called Katie “the fat one” (I have a snapshot of this, as it has been taken down after she received comments related to her criticisms). Katie appears to be very comfortable in her skin, and is such a positive force. She is as confident as they come, and I’m so proud she know’s who she is, so I don’t believe that she would give that comment any power over her. Her fitness is stellar, and again, the critical writer is long gone…
In this same post, she also criticized the work of Gail Ingram, saying the information provided by her and Scrubs is regurgitation and ALSO sharing that Gail is where she is now, because she “failed” at other occupations, and now wants to become a social media star. If you will take time to look at Gail’s bio, you will find she never “failed” at anything. So, where did these statements come from? Now, the comment would have been fine if she had created comments with specific examples. However, to CALL PEOPLE OUT, and name personal names, make inaccurate statements, and then fat shaming… it’s not acceptable. What was the purpose of the comments?
I get that people have opinions. Opinions are cool, as long as you are not demoralizing, bashing, or offending people personally. Let’s choose instead to be supportive. Even with the situation I mentions about the picture I posted a few years ago. I would have accepted differing opinions. As a matter of fact, one nurse and myself did have civil adult conversation, and we were able to respect each other’s views. The other 2 nurses actually did not see it as an opportunity to respect each other. This is where I drew the line.
What Can We as Internet Savvy Nurses Do?
This behavior of nurses bullying other nurses online is totally unacceptable, and it’s time for nurses bring constructive attention to this issue. I understand now, by bringing some of these concerns public, I now stand to be a target. Note, I haven’t named any names here to call people out specifically for their actions. It’s NOT about WHO writes these types of posts, (because we re all guilty of loose words) but to bring attention to a problem, and talk about solutions and opportunities.
I normally post on wellness and well-being issues. This subject actually is part of well being. It’s one of the dimensions of the Wellness Inventory Program. It involves how we communicate, how we accept ourselves, how we feel, sense, and think.
What Does it Take to Be Bullied?
I was having a conversation with Gail Ingram today about this situation. She actually brought up a VERY valid point and it even reminded me of a recent event in my life. It really takes 2 people to have a bullying situation. One is the perpetrator/cyber bully. The other is the victim. So, what happens when the victim refuses to be the victim? It’s actually beautiful! There is NO bullying. That’s right! When you refuse to give time/attention to the one trying to bully, you don’t become a victim! So, even though these comments were directed at her, she didn’t give it any time or attention because she know’s who she is, she is confident in her work, and she refuses to give her power and energy over to negative comments. POW!
I recently experienced cyber-bullying in the REDDIT forum. I’m a very conversational writer. I don’t generally write in a “scientific peer reviewed” format. I just love to write as if I were talking to you. Some of my articles were shared, and people began to come after me for not writing with “scientific” data. People wrote things directed to me when I commented on a few author’s writings. I decided that was not the forum for me. I’m relational and conversational. I will never enjoy being involved in forums that are so critical. So, I set my boundaries, and didn’t feel the need to justify anything I had written or said. (even though I could have provided scientific data). Their tone didn’t warrant my energy.
So, as a nurse, remember it takes 2 for a bullying situation. It takes the one who wants to say and write all the horrid words. It takes you to be the victim by becoming offended. So the next time someone writes/says something about you.. don’t give it energy. Let it go. Own your power! (that’s good advice for hospital bullying too)
A Word to all Nurses
- Be intentional in what you post
- Consider not ever speaking of your employment/co-workers
- Consider not listing where you work in your social profiles
- Remember everything you post is retrievable even if you delete it
- With everything you write, ask yourself if your employer would be pleased or find no fault
- With everything you write, ask yourself if your state Board of Nursing would find your words harmless
- Remember as a profession, we are examples and people look to us as role models
- Could your comments be considered slander
- Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary. Chances are, if it’s not… it doesn’t really need to be said.
Another point to consider is that when you use a platform to speak out behind a screen, you are STILL speaking to REAL people. These are real people with real lives. They live real experiences and they have families. I’m sure Gail’s mom would have been devastated to read exaggerated comments posted about her daughter’s nursing accomplishments. These are real people. We are real people. You are a real person. YOU have families. I’m a mom. I know my nurse/daughter better than anyone. I take her accomplishments to heart, and would really be devastated to see her dealing with situations like this.
My online nurse friend, Renee Thompson, has written a book about Nurse Bullying, and protecting yourself. It’s more geared to bullying within the workplace, but is a worthy read.
Nurses: Take the high road. Be examples.
As nurses, it’s time to work together and be supportive of each other. Nurses do behave badly. I wrote this a few years ago about Creating a Genshai Nursing Culture. It’s so far from where we are today. Let’s begin to build up and support each other. Create bully-free zones/boundaries. This post isn’t an attack on individuals. It’s a constructive way to shine light on an emerging opportunity related to increasing access to social media, and how our behavior as a professional should be that…professional. We as nursing professionals need to become cognizant of our behavior, both at work and in our personal lives.