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Nurses call for tougher law to dissolve 'toxic culture' of bullying

  • 15 Comments

Nurses were moved to tears today as they stood up to share their experiences of “deplorable” bullying at the hands of their colleagues.

Speaking during a debate at the Royal College of Nursing Congress today, members told of a “toxic culture” of bullying that is staining the profession and leaving some fearful to go to work.

“I feel very angry that there are days when I feel ashamed of my profession”

Kevin Crimmons

They passed a resolution urging the RCN to lobby for tougher laws to tackle this behaviour among health staff, insisting current policies were not working.

Presenting the motion, Lancashire West branch member Maggy Heaton warned: “We would like bullying to be mandated in law by holding a responsible person to account to address this toxic culture.”

Ahead of the vote dozens of members queued up for a chance on stage to tell their own personal stories.

Graham Revie, from the RCN stewards committee, said he used to dread the sound of his alarm clock and would wake up in fear each morning because he was being bullied at work.

“This is a cultural issue congress that we really need to address,” he urged.

He added: “Healthcare does not have a good record on this. Legislative measures are not going to make the change, they will assist us in making the change.”

Nursing professor Kevin Crimmons, a member from Birmingham, said the way some students were treated in clinical placements made him “ashamed” of the nursing profession.

“I’m extremely proud to be the head of adult nursing at Birmingham City University,” he told delegates.

“However, I am appalled by the stories that come back from placement from students about how they are treated when they are out,” he added.

“I feel very angry that there are days when I feel ashamed of my profession,” Mr Crimmons said.

He called on nurses to call students by their name during placements rather than “the student”.

“We need to have sanctions, we need call these people to account”

Colleen White

His demand was backed by Liverpool student nurse Lia Cooper who said she was “absolutely sick and tired” of being referred to as “the student”.

“You wonder why we leave the profession,” she added.

“We are saying ‘fund our future’ but you can’t fund our future if you are making us disengaged, wanting us to emotionally not be on that ward because we are not included in the team, not part of the family,” added Ms Cooper, referring to the RCN’s campaign for investment in higher education for nurses called Fund Our Future.

Student information officer Savannah Crowder, from the Leicestershire branch, said negative behaviour by staff during placements was making students reconsider their career choice.

“You constantly hear how student nurses are getting ignored, student nurses are made to feel like they are burdens when they are there to learn and they are there to grow,” she said.

“We are the future and we want to be here and we want to be nurses but so many people are being made to question whether they want to be a nurse and whether they can actually do it before they have even manged to start on the career ladder and that’s not okay,” added Ms Crowder.

She noted how nurses were told to care for patients but they were not doing the same for each other.

Amy Robinson, a trainee nursing associate from North Devon, said trainee nursing associates and nursing associates had faced “indirect discrimination” from others at congress.

“Although I have had an amazing week here, it’s been somewhat overshadowed by the indirect discrimination we have witnessed,” she told delegates.

“I urge people to find out more about NA and TNAs, because we are proud to be part of the nursing family and we are here to stay so we please ask you to accept us as part of the team,” she added.

Stuart Crawford, from the Inner North East London branch, said he had been bullied all his life because of his disability.

He said he was told to “just get on with it” if he complained about being abused by service users in the workplace.

“You constantly hear how student nurses are getting ignored”

Savannah Crowder

Hannah Gray, a nurse from the Hampshire branch, said she was backing the resolution because she had a friend who was bullied “every single time she walked onto a ward” and was struggling to get support.

Colleen White, member of the Southern branch, branded the problem “despicable, deplorable and an absolute disgrace”.

“We need to have sanctions, we need call these people to account,” she added.

Nurses in the debate overwhelmingly supported the resolution, which stated: “That this meeting of congress condemns the failure by governments across the UK to introduce legislation to prevent bullying in the workplace and urges the RCN Council to insist that this is addressed urgently.”

  • 15 Comments

Readers' comments (15)

  • Why is this coming up only now?This has been ongoing between registered nurses and now becoming very apparent with the new roles.
    Employers should be seriously questioning themselves why are nurses in the UK bullying themselves and start looking for effective solutions before it gets out of hand.
    And we wonder why are nurses are leaving the register?

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  • I have recently qualified and I am sad at the behaviour from fellow nurses and nursing assistants. It just baffles me how some trained staff or NA’s who have been in their roles for a long time think they can treat people in such a poor way. It’s true that this has been an issue for a long time and it’s not getting better. I’ve just left my job on the ward after 3 months as it effected my health so much I felt sick going in to work some days, favouritism, talking badly of each other and what was funny was that the manager didn’t realise it was going on until just before I left.

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  • I have recently qualified and I am sad at the behaviour from fellow nurses and nursing assistants. It just baffles me how some trained staff or NA’s who have been in their roles for a long time think they can treat people in such a poor way. It’s true that this has been an issue for a long time and it’s not getting better. I’ve just left my job on the ward after 3 months as it effected my health so much I felt sick going in to work some days, favouritism, talking badly of each other and what was funny was that the manager didn’t realise it was going on until just before I left.

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  • Although this problem has been a canker in the nursing profession for a very long time , it’s not too late to tackle it Head on in my humble opinion. Apart from the legislation that has been proposed, I’ll also suggest that the Managers of the various health institutions in which we render our services should do more to help nib this appalling behaviours in the bud.

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  • Should have happened years ago... Glad to hear its finally being tackled.

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  • It’s disgusting how nurses treat each other! What is particularly worrisome is the attitude of more experienced nurses to students & newly qualified nurses! I was bullied as a student & just put up with it because I was terrified that complaining could result in my learning outcomes not being signed off or in me having a horrible placement - uncomfortable & miserable because everyone has decided to gang up on you because you dared to challenge them ... I’m 1 month into my new role & I can honestly say I want out of nursing ... even a job at my local bookie’s would be better than working with these vultures ... They wonder why nurses are leaving in droves - the lack of support, the back biting & gossip as well as the continuous abuse of power & favouritism - I’m done with this profession!

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  • So sad but true. As a nurse I absolutely loved having students, they are the future, I wanted to mould and nurture them with good practice and enthusiasm . I was very aware they didn’t always have good experiences and did what I could to inspire them while working with me.
    I do have to mention, it could be very difficult when meeting up with a student who just wasn’t engaging.

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  • When I was a mature student in 2011 , aged 55 years my mentor stated to me on my first day, “Why would anyone want to start nursing, especially at your age” which included a swear word. At the time I did not have the confidence to respond appropriately, however I reported it to my University mentor who told me to toughen up and during my student days I was told this on a few occasions. I nearly gave up on my course but determination to succeed in my career won. I now nurse in a palliative care setting. I thought nursing would be a caring profession but it’s not always the case.

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  • I had a mentor for PLO2 who referred to me as 'The student' when speaking to other staff members, patients and online. On my pebblepad I am just referred to as the student, which is upsetting because this is my online page that the university sees and future employees, the page regarding final mentor comments it only "the student did this, student did that". I've only read it once and I can't bring myself to ever read it again because I disagree with what was said and how I was referred to. I personally found it very degrading that I would only seen as this.
    I wish I had stood up for myself more, so I suppose from this placement the best thing I took away from this is I need to stand up for myself and be more confident as this placement really knocked this. I considered leaving thinking I cannot do this. I found no support from her and hope my evaluation reflected this.

    I'd hope that she would read this article and realise her mistake.

    I am more that just a student.

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  • It is time that a Code of Conduct was made Law for Managers. Back in the late 90’s/ early 2000’s a Govt White (or Green ) Paper was published with a Code which included that Managers could be sacked and furthermore never allowed to work in the NHS again. Of course it never went forward but as an RCN Officer at the time when I read that out to a Manager holding a Disciplinary against a nurse two things happened: 1. The Manager went white and asked for an adjournment for 10 mins and 2. When she returned she announced that there had obviously been mistakes and all charges dropped!!
    Many Managers have no ideas of pressures, effects of low staffing and how actually the nurses could end up before the NMC through no fault of their own. Shame the Code was never ratified by Parliament.

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