Workplace Bullying in Nursing

Staffing Issues in Nursing: Workplace Bullying in Nursing


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Major issues are affecting staffing within the nursing profession, among them bullying of the new graduates. Bullying has major impact on the newly graduated nurses, including the impact on their morale and job satisfaction. In fact, bullying has a negative impact on the intentions of the new nurses to stay, making the nursing shortage problem even worse (Roberts, 2015). Bullying is considered a sort of aggressive behavior in which case the bully intentionally and constantly causes pain, discomfort, or injury to another. Bullying assumes different forms, including verbal abuse, physical contact, or more subtle actions. Bullying is a common occurrence within the nursing profession, and it is mostly targeted towards the new graduates. The situation impacts negatively to the new nurses who are already struggling with transitioning from the training to practice. The phrase, “nurses eat their young” has been used to show the extent of a problem that requires prompt attention and solution (Coletti, et al. 2012). Using the maleficence ethical framework, the purpose of the paper is to present the possible solutions to the problems, from a nursing advocate point of view.

Ethical Dilemma

In a nursing environment, there are older nurses who are expected to work with and mentor the new graduates entering into the profession. In one of the nursing contexts, a newly graduated nurse feels as if the older nurse is bullying and mistreating him/her from the virtual of allocating a lot of work to the new nurse. At the end of the day, the new nurse is too tired and feels like he/she cannot take any more; even contemplating to quit. The older nurse, in turn, argues that they have an important role of mentoring and training the new nurse and the most effective way is ensuring that he/she rotates through different nursing roles in order to learn. The nurse leader also argues that the nursing profession is faced with nursing shortage; hence, the available nurses have to take up the challenge. She acknowledges the burden but denies any intentions to bully or create any harm to the new nurse. The ethical dilemma presented in this case should be handled in such a manner that none of the parties feel unfairly of unjustly treated.

Moral, Ethical, and Legal Implications

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The moral and ethical implications associated with the situation can be understood from a maleficence ethical principle (Jackson & Hutchinson, 2015). The ethical theory is based on the need to do no harm. The theory necessitates that no one does any form of harm or evil to another person. It works well within the clinical setting, where professionals are required to avoid inflicting any harm to another person. Given the reality that bullying is aimed at causing humiliation, intimidation, threat, or demeaning effects, it is a violation of this ethical principle. The acts that amount to bullying are also a violation of the ethical code of conduct that guides the nursing practice. From a legal point of view, operating in such a manner that harms another person is illegal. Mostly, the profession is based on the legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment. Hence, the nurse who bullies another can be considered to violate the law.

As a moral agent or advocate, there is a responsibility towards making the working environment safe for all the workers, including the new nurses. For this reason, there is the obligation to listen to the both sides of the story to have a better understanding of the issue in order to assume the best course of action. As a rule, promoting a safe and conducive working environment is within the role of the moral agent or advocate. Preventing the chances of a nurse suffering from humiliation or any other negative effect on the hand of another is critical. The solution will begin by inventing the most effective mechanisms for addressing the problem. The role also includes the means to transform the negative environment to make it a better working environment for all nurses, old and new (Etienne, 2014). Advocating laid down guidelines for task allocation will go a long way in preventing any chances of the new nurses being overburdened. Where one understands the extent of work that one should perform, there are no chances of being overworked. A policy should be created at the organizational level setting out the boundary of tasks each person is expected to perform.

Leadership Styles

Democratic leadership is one of the leadership styles that I would apply in the situation. In a democratic environment, the voices of all the members of the organization are heard and acknowledged. In a democratic work environment, there will be no chances of any nurse taking advantage of the new nurses. Involvement of the nurses in the decision-making process will address the problem for all the nurses. Hence, participative leadership would be effective in addressing the dilemma. The nurses can even take part in the brainstorming process for the most effective solution. Gaffney, et al. (2012) invite for a process for addressing decisive conversations which are the basis for effective solutions. Coming together in making the decision affecting everyone is the basis for success in achieving a lasting solution.

Democratic and participative leadership are facilitators of the solution to bullying, whether deliberate or not. The process entails coming together of the affected parties, in a welcoming setup, proposing questions for discussion leading to efficient dialogue, motivating participation and contribution of the members, and proposing solutions to the problem. Because the problem of bullying is bled within a cultural context, efforts to change the culture of the organization should be included in seeking the solution (Johnson et al., 2015). Democratic and participative leadership is founded on effective and assertive communication process, successful in dealing with conflicts in the workplace. The leader has a role in coming up with the models of behavior, which should not be forced on the nurses, a situation that would cause resistance to change.


Bullying of new graduates in nursing is a common occurrence, mostly perpetrated by the older nurses who are mandated with the role of mentoring and supporting their transition to the nursing practice. Some of the situations are a source of dilemma because they are perpetuated in the name of training or mentoring the young nurses. The dilemma can be understood from moral, ethical and legal perspectives, necessitating prompt response. The kind of leadership applied in the situation can act as facilitator or a hindrance to addressing the problem. The proposal for success is in the use of democratic and participative leadership. Hence, the moral agent or advocate has a role of bringing together the affected parties to discuss the most workable solution to this problem/dilemma.

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