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'When does banter becomes bullying?'

Sian Rodger

I am fortunate enough to work with a great team of nurses; they have a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience. They range from newly qualified nurses to post-retirees who have returned and do a couple shifts a week.

One such retiree refers to me as ‘The Interference Officer’ asking all the other nurses and patients ”what does she do here, apart from interfere?”

He calls me this because I am always asking “what is happening with this patient?”, and “has this been done?”; “what are the results of this?” and even “why hasn’t this been started?”.

We both started at the trust at the same time and have worked together for many years and he is a fantastic, knowledgeable nurse. So when he starts giving me a bit of banter I give it back (appropriately) – usually something about his age or the football team he supports. We all laugh, and the patients usually join in, as do the other staff, and it’s all ‘just a bit of fun’.

However, there is a fine line between banter and what could be perceived as being undermined, criticism, insulting and upsetting by other colleagues. This can lead to lack of confidence, lack of self-belief and a desire to leave the profession.

I try to make work fun for my staff and patients while always conducting myself in a professional manner. I don’t mind gentle banter about me, but we need to be able to read the signs if someone does not appreciate it. We need to ensure that anyone who feels banter is getting too much or has turned into bullying knows where and how to get support.

“Reporting is essential and should be encouraged”

Most people don’t like to be tattletales, but it is important to highlight when you start to feel uncomfortable, so the issue can be addressed before it gets worse. It may be that the person dishing out the banter is unaware of how it is making their colleagues feel, so reporting is essential and should be encouraged.

Being aware of how we behave towards other team members is imperative to create an enjoyable place to work in an already stressful workplace. Conducting ourselves in a professional manner in front of patients and colleagues breeds professionalism and teaches them how we expect them to behave on our wards.

I think that work should be fun, and I don’t mind the gentle teasing I get – I try to get to know my staff well to have a happy ward, but it’s worth remembering that just because somebody is laughing at your banter on the outside does not mean it isn’t potentially chipping away at their confidence on the inside.


Readers' comments (2)

  • a very pertinent point and one we would all do to remember. I have seen at first hand how this has made colleagues feel and the lengths they have gone to avoid within these cliques, causing isolation and misery

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  • One of the problems today is that there are so many new grade in nursing that patients have't a clue as to who does what, who is senior to whom, who it the right person to raise an issue with?

    There are to many grades of staff, with the higher grades thinking some jobs are beneath them. As a patient we believe all nurses are there to help us but to be told bluntly 'that is not my job' cause friction not just between staff but between patients too.

    It is okay sticking gigantic posters on walls telling patients what colour uniform is what grade of staff, but when you are in bed and in pain, who is going to look at posters?

    Some nurses that have been to Uni think some tasks are beneath them with comments like 'I didn't spend three years in Uni to change wet sheets', where is the empathy, more to the point where is the care?

    Patients need to be able to identify a nurses role without having to ask their name, grade and what they can or can't do.

    What happened to the '5 C's'?

    For all the changes there have been down the years, nursing care has not got better, it is all about 'paper chasing' and filling in forms!

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