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Nurse burnout exacerbated by disrespectful colleagues


Nurses need more support to deal with rude and disrespectful treatment by fellow team members, suggests new research.

The study, led by the University of East Anglia, found a lack of civility from doctors and fellow nurses had a significant impact on levels of burnout.

“If managers are dismissive of concerns from frontline co-workers, patient care is threatened”

Roberta Fida

However, the researchers said nurses with strong self-belief – or “self-efficacy” – were less likely to be troubled by rudeness and discourtesy from co-workers and managers.

Their findings, published in the journal Heath Care Management Review, are based on a survey of nearly 600 Canadian nurses.

At the start of the study, participants were assessed on their levels of self-efficacy and their perceptions and experiences of workplace “incivility” – defined as rudeness by colleagues, managers and patients.

They were also asked about burnout, their overall mental health, and whether or not they intended to leave their job. The nurses were surveyed on all these factors again a year later.

Those with higher levels of self-efficacy, who were more confident about their ability to deal with stressful interactions at work, were less likely to report or notice colleagues being rude to them.

They also experienced less emotional exhaustion and cynicism a year after they were first surveyed, and reported fewer mental health issues.

Lead author Roberta Fida, a lecturer in organisational behaviour, said the findings were encouraging, because self-efficacy was something that could be supported and promoted by “proactive hospital management”.

“Every effort must be made to ensure incivility is not tolerated and to create working conditions that prevent subsequent burnout to ensure both employee and organisational health,” she said.

“Developing strategies to strengthen nurses’ ability to deal with negative behaviour from different sources is also critical to ensuring high-quality patient care,” said Dr Fida.

Nurses’ confidence in being able to handle rudeness from colleagues was a crucial factor in maintaining the teamwork necessary for good care, she said.

“Confidence in their ability to deal with incivility from supervisors is also important in this respect,” she noted. “If managers are dismissive of concerns or ideas from frontline co-workers, patient care is threatened.”

University of East Anglia

Nurse burnout exacerbated by disrespectful colleagues

Roberta Fida

The research team said nurses should be given opportunities to strengthen their coping skills. Seeing colleagues and line managers successfully dealing with stressful situations was one way of learning how best to manage such difficulties, they suggested.

Words of praise and encouragement from managers and co-workers could also help build self-esteem, they said.

While self-efficacy was linked to nurses’ ability to deal with mistreatment, the study found it was not related to whether or not nurses intended to leave their job.

The study was conducted with Heather Laschinger, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and is part of a wider research project on nursing work environments.


Readers' comments (17)

  • Where I work, mental health rehab unit, we support each other on the shopfloor (as a figure of speech); Whenever something goes wrong, we are blamed straught away by the management, especially our Consultant.
    On a daily basis staff are subjected to verbal abuse by some of our patients, when brought up in a staff meeting, to discuss ways of tackling the problem; we are told, they have a mental illness and can't help it.

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  • I this the biggest problem in nursing is nurses. We blame each other and we are very good at undermining each other.

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  • Surely we should be dealing with staff behaviour as opposed to helping staff with self -efficacy. Disrespectful behaviour should not be tolerated and we should be striving for an inclusive culture

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  • michael stone

    Self-efficacy is yet another label which departs from normal English usage - why do people keep doing that ?!

    The term should involve the word 'resilience' instead of 'efficacy'.

    But whatever you call it, surely the title - Nurse burnout exacerbated by disrespectful colleagues - isn't a surprise.

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  • Its a Canadian study - hence the reason for the weird terminology I think. The message remains the same though.

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  • Comment removed due to inappropriate language. Please refer to this site's terms and conditions before posting further:<br/>

  • The rudeness is even worse towards Agency nurses. If only permanent staff could understand that Agency nurses are there to work in the team with the same best interest for patient care. Devaluing Agency until they see the skills and hear experience one holds. One nurse even commented ' l was all by myself' when all other staff had been Agency. Being a Trust Staff does not mean you are the nurse
    #attitude destroying the healthcare sector.

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  • I started as a cadet in 1961, retiring in 2014. I found there was very little if any bullying or back stabbing in nursing until the 80s, this has got steadily worse over the years.
    So what changed? Degree/diploma nurses started the division, at that time they seemed to work together against the professionally trained SRN. Trained on the job not in a classroom. The hospitals began losing their matron replaced by myriad of managers, non execs, CEOs and all their PAs draining the NHS
    Project 2000 brought more unwelcome changes. At the same time vast numbers of care assistants were taken on board, 'trained' to NVQ level 2 or 3 resulting in many thinking they are trained nurses
    The professional status of the nurse has been eroded by all these changes over the years causing a destructive fractionalised workforce . Its now dog at dog. As one consultant said to me in a discussion about the changes, he said "We doctors are not like you nurses, we Drs stick together, you nurses stab each other in the back" So true

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  • In the 1970s when I was partaking my SEN training, I used to experience a lot of discrimination from SRN, who whilst I was on placement, quoted ' pupils nurses should spend the first year of their training in the sluice'.
    I and my colleagues had to tackle HCAs who were rude to us as we were not first level nurses. Nothing has changed.

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  • michael stone

    Rachel, I don't think it is because they are Canadian. What they were studying is 'how efficacious are nurses at withstanding the consequences of 'incivility' [disrespect] by their colleagues' - so 'efficacy' is involved, but the term 'self-efficacy' as the label is about as clear on first sight as 'Brexit means Brexit', because it contains not a hint as to what the efficacy relates to.

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