Published On: Thu, Dec 24th, 2015

Nurses feel stressed & bullied: Here’s how to stop it

Healthcare Business & Tech — Bad news: Many of your hospital’s nurses are likely feeling stressed and bullied during their shifts. That can negatively affect the quality of patient care. But with a few targeted interventions, hospitals can make life much better for their nurses.

nurse stressNew research shows that nurses feel less stress when they’re more valued, regardless of the tasks they’re completing each day.

According to a news release about the study, which was published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, if nurses are in control of the work they do, and they feel it’s valued by their facility, they tend to be less stressed.

Stress was measured by monitoring nurses’ heart rates during two shifts. Using small digital devices, the nurses recorded the tasks they were doing and how stressful they found them.

Whether they were working with patients or communicating with other clinical staff, nurses felt the same way: The more control they had, the less stress they experienced.

And feeling appreciated also decreased their stress, especially when dealing with patients. Nurses rate working with patients as the most rewarding part of their job, even though it’s one of the most stressful.

With that in mind, it’s critical to make sure your nurses feel as though their work matters. It’s a good idea to recognize their efforts with regular events to show your facility values what they do, such as nurse appreciation days.

Even a simple “Thank you” goes a long way – especially if it comes from a supervisor, doctor or executive.

Stop nurse bullies

Bullying is also a big problem for nurses – and it’s one that drastically affects retention. To get an idea of how much it affects retention, consider this: 60% of new nurses leave their first job within six months, specifically due to bullying.

Dr. Renee Thompson, a former nurse who now educates healthcare providers about bullying, cited the above statistic in one of a series of blog posts devoted to stopping the spread of nurse bullying in hospitals. She defines bullying as “the repeated pattern of destructive behavior with the conscious or unconscious attempt to do harm.”

Sometimes, doctors are the culprits. But many nurses, especially brand-new hires, receive more abuse from their peers than providers.

And among nurses, this behavior takes more forms than you’d think.

Overt bullying is common. Besides screaming, and even violence, overt bullying can include name calling, verbal criticism, blaming, intimidation, ethnic jokes or slurs, and making threats.

Covert bullying is harder to identify, but just as prevalent. Behavior that’s typical of this type of bullying includes sabotage, downplaying accomplishments, giving unfair assignments and excluding others.

According to Dr. Thompson, the key for hospitals to stop nurse bullying is to identify the tactics bullies use in the workplace and be on the lookout for them.

If any signs of bullying exist, it’s important to keep the actions of a few people from destroying the whole team. Disciplinary action may be necessary in some cases.

To prevent bullying from pushing out your best nurses, it’s helpful to give staff regular training on how to recognize and handle this behavior. Having a policy that addresses workplace bullying is even more effective, particularly if it includes consistent steps your nurses can take when they experience bullying.

Jessica White

Jessica White

Contributing Editor at Healthcare Business & Technology
Jess White has written for several different print and online publications throughout her career. Jess is currently an editor with Progressive Business Publications (the parent company of PBP Media and, working on the Keep Up to Date on Primary Care Coding & Reimbursement newsletter. Previously, Jess spent several years as an editor for a community newspaper group in the Philadelphia suburbs owned by the parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was also a freelance writer for, AOL's community news division.
Jessica White

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