Worker on Worker Violence in the Workplace
By: American Nurses Association
Workplace violence in the nursing industry is nothing new, but it is our aim to break the silence around the issue and pave the way for the conversations that can help solve and heal. Of the five general categories of workplace violence as recognized by researchers and the CDC, “worker on worker” violence, or violence from our coworkers can be the most devastating.
Worker on worker. In this kind of violence, the perpetrator is a current or former employee or coworker. Violence may occur up (directed at a supervisor), across (directed at a peer), or down (directed at a supervisee) the chain of command. Interpersonal and organizational conflict is most often implicated in this type of violence. Within the healthcare system, worker to worker violence is commonly intensified in times of high workload and short staffing, and in units that have a culture of mistrust or “eating their young”. Violence from our coworkers can be the most devastating, because these are the people that should be in our corner, should be helping, should be having our backs. Violence from our patients can usually be somewhat understood and excused, but violence from our team is a deep betrayal of trust.
In the following story from the American Nurses Association, we witness worker on worker violence taking place. This story, one of many, highlights the reality and the impact of coworker violence on nurses, and its effect on their ability to provide high quality care.
I was assigned the most difficult patients—I was hit by confused elderly patients, my crotch was grabbed, I was harassed verbally, and urine and feces were thrown all over the place in some cases. I wish I could say that was the worst part of it, but the one thing that plummeted my self-esteem down the drain was being bullied by other staff and supervisors. I was humiliated verbally, yelled at in front of patients, given assignments others didn’t want, and I was isolated with no help or direction when needs arose. I cried a lot on that unit floor—before work, after work, on my way home from work—and I couldn’t sleep when I needed to. I never suffered from anxiety before this job. I heard of Nurses eating their young, but I didn’t exactly know what that was—until I became prey. My health was severely affected and by the 4th month, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I have since moved on to hospice nursing where I find great joy in what I do, and my nursing career has thrived.
We as nurses do not have to settle for and accept workplace violence as “the norm” for our industry. For a thorough and comprehensive overview and training on workplace violence prevention, you can access the American Nurses’ Association violence prevention bundle here.
References used in developing this blog