“Nurses need strong coping mechanisms, and as many resources as possible to handle the extremely delicate and stressful situations that they face daily. Lateral violence and workplace bullying are commonplace, and it’s not just fellow nurses who are responsible for incivility. Every member of the healthcare team – including patients, families, and doctors – can be both a target or a perpetrator. In the world of health care, the human condition is unpredictable and emotionally charged.”
~ Dr. Seun Ross, the Director of Nursing Practice and Work Environment at the American Nurses Association (representing over 3 million nurses), stated in an interview with NBC News.
In May of this year, 160 ER nurses travelled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation promoting a safe workplace for health care employees. When the audience was asked: “who has ever been the victim of violence in their hospital?”, nearly every hand in the room went up.
Studies conducted by nursing associations have found that most nurses are regularly victims of bullying, harassment, racism, degradation, intimidation, unwanted sexual advances, and even violence on the job. In one study, over fifty percent of ER nurses reported experiencing violence at work within only the first seven days of their participation in the study. To make matters worse, nearly half (46.7%) of those who report incidents of any kind to their supervisor failed to receive support; and many got either no response or were asked to keep quiet.
No person should have to endure harassment or fear for their personal safety when doing their job, even nurses who expect to do hard physical work and interact with customers and co-workers in sometimes uncomfortable, intimate personal ways. And yet, obviously it happens, and with alarming frequency.
Helpers Need Help
A nurse who has been on the job for 57 years was asked if she had ever heard of a situation where a whistleblower was taken seriously and the perpetrator held accountable. She could only recall one incident – where an administrator was a known sexual predator and he was finally demoted from department head to a lower position where women were no longer required to report to him. However, he did not lose his title, seniority or salary status.
“There’s a culture of bullying and intimidation in nursing, especially for new nurses, which is why so many quit within the first five years. There is a lot of “hazing” that goes on, which I guess is meant to weed out the weak; toughen people up – but instead it creates an environment of hostility and mistrust. Bullying becomes normalized, and accepted as just one of the hazards of the job. Over time, the cumulative stress causes severe depression, anxiety, anger, insomnia, absenteeism, patient neglect, apathy, alcoholism, drug use, smoking, and other unhealthy habits designed to numb the pain and frustration. Rates of suicide, divorce, and burnout are very high. Staff turnover is constant; nurses always quitting or getting fired. After many bad early experiences I’m finally at a good facility now where they encourage teamwork, pair up nurses that work well together, and foster a workplace that is safe, professional, and diverse.”
~F.V., BSN at a NJ Nursing Home and Hospice Center for 8+ years.
Hidden Costs in Healthcare: More Than Just Money
In an organization that promotes health and healing, burnout and high turnover is a liability that impacts everyone from the CEO to the patient waiting to be admitted.
The Joint Commission revealed in 2014 that …71% of physicians and nurses linked incivility to medical error, and 99% of physicians (out of 800) believed bad behavior negatively impacted patient care. This means that in addition to the toll harassment and bullying takes on nursing staff, patient care is also impacted — and ultimately, increases hospital liability.
“Healthcare is getting more and more complex. Increasing demands, decreasing resources, burn out and bullying are huge contributing factors to how employees show up every day. Public criticisms, threatening or intimidating comments, blaming, sabotage, nurse bullying and incivility, and workplace violence are all impacting patient care.”
~ Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CSP; Founder of The Healthy Workforce Institute; and the leading authority on creating a healthy workforce culture by eradicating nurse bullying, workplace bullying, and incivility.
Unfortunately, bullying, discrimination, harassment and violence cannot be prevented from occurring, but nursing staff can be armed with tools to empower themselves, and also to create workplace environments where they feel supported and safe to report incidents that impact their own lives, that of their coworkers and their patients. Some attempts to address the situation that hospitals have implemented, like complaint drop boxes and 1-800 tip lines. But, they are often perceived by nursing staff as too risky as they’re not genuinely anonymous, or worse yet – “just for show”, with little or no follow up.
Fortunately, with the advent of tools like STOPit, empowering staff to report dangerous behavior is easy. It’s easy to implement safe, confidential reporting and it’s easy to administer. STOPit’s best-in-class incident management system is straightforward and logical. In less than an hour, assigned staff can be up and running on STOPit Admin, with an intuitive, customizable dashboard and user experience that makes incident management and reporting extremely manageable in the context of an already high-pressure work environment.
With the knowledge that an employer is taking the reports seriously and actively using an anonymous tool such as the STOPIt app, nursing staff can feel empowered to safely report incidents, and hospital administration can follow up in a way that is best suited for their needs and culture.
Better outcomes for staff. Better outcomes for patients. Just better.
Call today to speak with a STOPit app consultant and see if an anonymous reporting solution is right for your healthcare workplace.