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Lateral Violence in Healthcare

By Jenny Palmgren, BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager, MSSI

Lateral Violence in Healthcare

Every day, nurses are suffering from lateral violence (otherwise known as workplace bullying), which is leading to lower productivity, compromised patient care, and the ever-increasing nursing shortages across the country. Perhaps it is a form of hierarchy, control, or lack of confidence from the staff who are the cause. No matter the reason, it’s never acceptable, yet it continues in everyday healthcare settings.

As a nurse myself, I can remember experiencing the bullying I was warned about (especially when I was fresh out of nursing school) which left me wanting to leave early, call in, or worse, quit. As I transitioned in my career in different levels of leadership, I thought it would be different. Unfortunately, it was not any better. Managers intentionally excluding you from meetings, snarky comments from coworkers – all of it wears over time. It can become even more aggressive as the leaders that may be at a higher level in the organization feel that they can get away with it.

It has been noted that bullying and lateral violence is four times higher in healthcare settings than any other industry.Β  This is sad to even fathom, as many cases are often unreported due to fear of retaliation or staff feeling like it will get better over time. The effects of bullying in a unit or hospital are consistent with high turnover, which in turn can decrease the overall morale of the unit and a negative effect on patient care. If we want to decrease the number of nurses leaving the profession, we are the ones that need to make the change. Next time you hear someone belittling a co-worker or you are feeling this way, stand up to this violence and confront it. Confrontation can be difficult, but can result in resolution. If you feel that you have made these mistakes in the past, apologize. Being aware of the way you speak to or treat your fellow co-workers is the first step in making a change.

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