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Workplace Bullying - A Silent Epidemic.

Reprinted with permission Florida Nurse, November 2020

Dr. Iacovitti has earned her Bachelor's in Nursing, MBA and most recently a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from University of Iowa. Her clinical nursing experience for nearly 25 years consists of pediatrics, emergency medicine, gastroenterology, women's health, and solid organ transplant. She is currently a Program Manager for Surgical Oncology Clinics at Baptist MD Anderson.

The stakes for workplace bullying (WPB) are higher than school bullying because it affects a person's livelihood. The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines bullying as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of a person (the target) by one or more workers that takes the form of verbal abuse; conduct or behaviors that are threatening, intimidating or humiliating; sabotage that prevents work from getting done; or some combination of the three by a cruel perpetrator (the bully)" (Namie & Namie, 2009). WPB impacts physical and psychological health of nurses, threatens their working relationships, family, and careers RN turnover will cost a hospital from $5.2M - $8.1 M (Gooch, 2016). Bullying in the workplace can cost over $4 billion yearly (2016). A WBI 2017 survey reveals 19% of adult Americans have experienced abuse; 37% (including witnesses) have been affected by it; 63% of Americans now are aware that workplace bullying happens; only 9% of the targets are believed that they are being bullied; 77% want a law against WPB (Namie, 2017).

The rationale to stamp out WPB is to create a healthier, happier, satisfying, and positive workplace for all employees and patients; decrease the risk of harm to patients, shield seasoned and newly licensed nurses to practice under safe conditions avoiding needless distractions of being bullied.

Addressing bullying reduces the risk of losing veteran bedside nurses, reduces the financial impact on organizations, reduces the risk of increasing hospital acquired infections and most importantly places perpetrators accountable for their pathological and unforgivable behavior.

Proposed Solutions

Bullying is a multi-faceted hidden epidemic. Placing the following projected solutions in any given order is arduous. Solutions can happen simultaneously, and each takes effort, patience, dedication, and time.

Leaders in all organizations must first acknowledge bullying is transpiring then rapidly discover a process to collaboratively examine and manage nurse bullying in an effort that staff can work in a healthier workplace. Everyone has a right to come to work in a nonviolent and positive work environment.

C-Suite collaborate with staff and create Leadership/Human Resources to enforce a "No Tolerance" policy together with an on-going evaluation of the effectiveness of the "No Tolerance" policy. Perpetrators are encouraged to be accountable for their behavior and take responsibility for their actions by making amends to those affected.

Nurses need to be brave by coming forward and exposing their perpetrator. Otherwise their distorted, despicable, and hateful conduct will continue.

Nurse bullying databases must be established. Currently, none are in existence Databases are a valuable tool to measure, assess and identify patterns in health systems. Data can be collected by population subgroups, regions, or the nation. Should any national nursing organization or nursing professional desire to contact their legislator or local representative to seek support for mandating health organizations to introduce a "No Tolerance" policy.

Legislation for either a "No Tolerance" policy or resurrecting the Healthy Workplace Bill can ultimately help safeguard healthier work environments, nurses can practice under safe conditions, maintain patient safety, empower staff to report bullying without retaliation, improve the quality of care in hospitals. WPB is unacceptable in any occupation.

Most nurses stay silent when they are oppressed and demeaned by workplace bullies even though organizations have policies in place to address lateral/horizontal violence. They are encouraged to speak to someone because they are not alone Staying silent empowers bullies and their behaviors. It can also lead the targets to suicide.


Gooch, K (2016) Becker's Hospital Review. 5 thoughts and statistics on nurse bullying. Retrieved from:

Namie, G and Namie R. (2009). The Bully at Work. Second Edition Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc.

Namie, G (2017) Workplace Bullying Institute. 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Retrieved from:

Nursing Solutions Inc. (2016). 2016 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report. Retrieved from: Report2016.pdf

Dr. Palma Iacovitti DNP MBA RN
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Author:Iacovitti, Palma
Publication:Georgia Nursing
Date:Jul 1, 2021
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