Saturday, April 16, 2011

N. Nurses and other nice people. Workplace bullying

The caring and voluntary sectors are rife with serial bullies who find the endless supply of vulnerable clients and vulnerable workers irresistible. Many people in the caring professions have vulnerabilities (developed from suffering their own pain) which provide them with the high levels of empathy necessary for specialist client care; these vulnerabilities also mean that such people are ripe for control, manipulation and punishment which are favourite pursuits of the serial bully.   (from bullyonline)
Many of the caring sector workplaces are chronically understaffed and rely on agency casuals to fill shifts. This leaves the ongoing staff with the extra responsibility of constantly explaining procedures to new workers who have no commitment to the specific workplace.

They report being overworked, unsupported, and discouraged from providing the level of care that patients require. Anecdotally nurses say they believe that all too frequently 'accidents' happen due to the time constraints that are covered up to save 'the good reputation' of the facility.
"Caring" workplaces all too often don't care for their own employees adequately.
(Photo: East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009)
Nurses who speak out are often bullied and given the least desirable shifts week after week. The situation is extremely demoralizing. Nurses go into the profession because they care, but are squeezed out; hurt, frustrated and angry. The financial and personal costs from bullying in the health care sector are  enormous.

Highly trained, competent and caring staff leave because they are so concerned at the short cuts that are being taken and the inadequate patient care. In neo-natal units nurses have discussed their concern at how babies and parents are treated, and in some cases they are also on the receiving end of highly emotional and aggressive parents with little or no support for their own suffering.

Nurses have discussed violence in operating theaters with doctors physically abusing junior (and not so junior) staff.  How dare anyone question their competence! Speaking out is considered to be undermining the department, with cases of malpractice going unreported for months, because staff are intimidated into keeping quiet.

Not only are nurses vulnerable due to the chronic understaffing, but become targets from management determined to cut costs by whatever means available. This has been noted in many other industries where 'the bottom line' holds more sway than professional service, all too often putting the consumers at risk.

Recently (April 2011) pilots at one of the Australian airlines complained about fatigue from long shifts and night flying. These were bluntly dismissed, with the pilots being told to "toughen up princesses ... you're tired and can't be bothered going to work". (Link here.) As a sometime passenger on long haul flights, I can confidently say I'd prefer that pilots are well rested before flying. I wonder about the culture in the industry, and whether profit or safety is a higher priority, particularly when the economy is stressed.
Northern New South Wales

Here tomorrow: Obstructive

I'd like to thank San over at Informed Sharing for her perceptive review of my blogs. I am not only honoured, but humbled that the information I share at traverselife and the fun I have with words at JumpingAground has been acknowledged so thoughtfully and generously. Thankyou San.

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There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area.

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, often with an environmental theme.


Elliot Grace said...

...there is growing concern regarding overly fatigued professionals in both the medical field, and the airline industry, two life-altering careers. Those in charge of flight towers have been falling asleep on the job, and losing their credibility, when in fact they should be given a lighter work load and kept off the unemployment lines.

Well written post:)


Boonie S said...

Interesting piece with a very creative use of pictures. Bullying does seem to be a recurring theme in this series of posts. Have I missed something?

All the best, Boonie

sue said...

Elliot, frightening isn't it. The bullying of professionals we should respect is appalling.

Boonie, Good to see you back! It's the A-Z April blogging challenge. I chose the theme of workplace bullying for these posts for professional reasons. It happens that it's been in the news most of this month too; an unexpected piece of synchronicity. I'm sorry you dropped in on such a depressing topic. It's lighter fare over at JumpingAground.