How Nurses Can Help Prevent Horizontal Violence
While there are many advantages associated with entering the nursing profession, one of the biggest drawbacks is the prevalence of horizontal violence. Horizontal violence is the practice of bullying and belittling colleagues, resulting in emotional distress for the victims. With an estimated 46% to 100% of nursing workplaces being subject to horizontal violence according to Nurse Together, it’s important that nurses take steps to reduce and eliminate this harmful practice.
A Cycle of Horizontal Violence
In order to understand how to fight against this trend, it’s important for nurses to be informed about how horizontal violence is perpetuated. New nurses who are just starting out in a particular workplace are especially vulnerable to being bullied. However, since they are new to the work environment, they assume these are unchangeable practices and are less likely to speak out against them. When that new group of nurses becomes more experienced, they will sometimes become the perpetrators of the very same bullying techniques that they were victims of.
Nursing publications have created many reports, resources and studies that can give nurses the opportunity to educate themselves about the dangers and signs of horizontal violence. In addition to seeking out their own information, nurses should talk with hospital managers and administrators about providing learning opportunities for their colleagues.
Along with implementing training and information sessions, a great way to educate hospital employees is by sharing personal stories of experiences with horizontal violence. Nurses who are already informed about this dangerous practice can volunteer to help train new nurses or the entire staff by offering insights into being a victim, a bystander or even a perpetrator of horizontal violence.
Break the Cycle
One of the most effective ways nurses can fight against this practice is by putting an end to the cycle of hostility. Seasoned nurses who experienced ridicule, sabotage, shaming or undermining at the start of their careers should make a point to take a different approach with the new nurses they interact with.
Nursing Management recommends changing the value system within the staff, so that experienced employees are encouraged to share their knowledge and advice with new nurses. Seasoned nurses should also make an effort to be supportive, maintain open communication, celebrate achievements and collaborate to help foster and create a more pleasant environment.
It can be especially difficult for bystanders to talk about harmful or abusive treatment that may be the precursor to horizontal violence. Ideally, a hospital will have a system that allows employees to report troubling incidents or behavior without feeling intimidated or frightened.
If those systems aren’t already in place, nurses should reach out to administrators and managers about creating a safe way to report horizontal violence. In the meantime, nurses who are bystanders to abusive treatment should speak out at the time and try to diffuse the situation. For example, if one nurse is purposely excluding another nurse from an important conversation, bystanders should step in and try to bring the excluded nurse into the group.
Victims should take a similar approach of choosing to be vocal instead of silent. If at all possible, they should stand up to perpetrators and assert that they aren’t willing to accept abusive treatment. If a victim is uncomfortable with this tactic, he or she should confide in a trusted staff member or manager and ask for guidance on how to best handle the issue. When perpetrators know they can get away with the abuse, they will continue to do it. Addressing the issue head on and discussing the problem openly will make it harder for horizontal violence to continue.
Horizontal violence has many harmful financial and operational consequences for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. However, the personal damage it can inflict on nurses may be even more troubling. Not only does it make the workplace a more stressful environment for everyone, but it can cause depression, panic attacks, GI issues, hypertension and other serious problems for victims.
While hospital administrators must certainly take responsibility for ensuring the well being of staff members, nurses can also take a stand and make significant strides toward ending horizontal violence for good.