Standing up to nurse intolerance
Thursday, November 19, 2015
The adage that nurses eat their young may sound like old news, but it still rings as true today as it did 20 years ago. From internalized oppression to the power of patriarchal medical dominance, there are many reasons given for the egregious ways in which some nurses treat one another.
Meanwhile, some of us have witnessed nurses who are openly intolerant of patients or colleagues who choose to identify in a way that is gender nonconforming, live a lifestyle outside the norms of mainstream society, suffer from addiction or mental illness, share an ethnic background different from the majority, among other factors.
Intolerance is inappropriate in any milieu. As nurses, we are responsible to speak out when witnessing another nurse demonstrating intolerance.
In most instances, silence is complicity. If you witness a nurse treating another nurse in a manner that constitutes bullying, harassment or other forms of "lateral violence," your unequivocal communication that this behavior will not be tolerated is a powerful way to disempower the bully and shine a light on aberrant behavior.
While working on your unit one afternoon, you may see a nurse treat an elderly patient with angry disrespect. It is your responsibility to address this nurse's behavior, either by speaking to him directly, or documenting what you saw and bringing it to the attention of your manager.
Aberrant behavior in the workplace is often perpetrated by individuals who feel they have power. They may be directly or indirectly granted this power by those who are most intimidated by them. As a nurse wanting to do the right thing, you cannot allow these nurses' perceived power to stop you from speaking out in the face of behavior that is antithetical to being a healthcare provider.
Standing up means you are willing to make your voice heard and stand behind your words. When you speak out against intolerance or inappropriate behavior perpetrated by another nurse, you make a bold statement that you are a righteous nurse with a vested interest in protecting the powerless and pushing back against those who would abuse them.
Doing the right thing often means we must act outside of our comfort zone, or push our boundaries in a way that challenges our self-concept. When we stand up to a bully or speak out against intolerant speech or behavior, we demonstrate to ourselves, the perpetrators and the victims that we are powerful advocates.
Nurses are trained to be patient advocates, yet we also must learn to advocate for ourselves and our colleagues.
Stand up, speak out, do the right thing, and step into your power as a nurse with a finely tuned moral compass that will not condone intolerance.
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