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Our Readers Respond

Break the bullying cycle

I read with great interest the article “Break the bullying cycle” in the January 2012 edition of American Nurse Today. Terri Townsend provides an excellent introduction to the bullying cycle, with a special emphasis on how bullying jeopardize unit morale and patient safety. I agree with Ms. Townsend. Workplace bullying is a widespread contamination in a venerable environment. It seems that terms such as relational aggression, verbal abuse, groupies or click (close knit groups) and even silos (those who stand and work alone) are all forms of bullying and are more widespread than anyone may have imagined. Bullying endanger our patients and harbor irreparable opportunities to foster teamwork not to mention monies lost to recidivism.

Bullying is getting international attention. As you stated in your article, in Canada, workplace bullying was reportedly associated with one in seven cases of adult suicides. According to O’Driscoll individuals alone should not be left to sort this all out. We must rely on senior managers to assume the lead on this through education, policy changes, and strategic recognition. As Hendren notes, we expect that senior leadership sets the climate for the organization. When the senior nurse leaders are invested by example to portray team building, this behavior can be repeated among the staff. I agree with you in the sidebar of your article is your manager a bully (page 15). In creating this environment, Dellasega recommends the leaders and administrators instead of being the problem, should create, reinforce and ensure that nurses have a safe environment in which to practice. There is too much at state.

If there is to be a change in the climate, there must be more direct efforts toward that end. First, I recommend the book by Cheryl Dellasega in Recognizing and Overcoming the Cycle of Bullying: When Nurses Hurt Nurses (2011). This book and others should be required reading for all administrators, chief nursing officers, leaders and nursing staff. Secondly, strategies, policies and action plans should be put in place to make a lasting change.

Thank you for taking on this very serious and overlooked topic in healthcare. By addressing the key issues involved with the bullying cycle, organizations have the chance to make a difference in the safety of our patients, families, each other and the very fiber of our work environment.

Adlene McElroy, MSN-PMC, MS-HSA, RN-BC



Dellasega C. Recognizing and Overcoming the Cycle of Bullying: When Nurses Hurt Nurses. Sigma Theta Tau International. Indianapolis, IN. 2011.

Hendren R. Nurse leaders’ role in promoting autonomy and accountability. Health-Leaders Media. 2011. Accessed February 28, 2012 from http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/nurse-leaders/nurse-leaders-role-promoting-autonomy-and-accountability.

O’Driscoll MP, et al. Workplace bullying in New Zealand: A Survey of employee perceptions and attitudes. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. 2011;49(4):390-408. DOI: 10.117/1038411111422140


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