Registered Nurse. Academic Nurse Educator. DNP Student. 🐨

A prevalent issue in nursing, and health care in general, is intimidation - or any attempt to exert superiority and instill fear in a colleague. How does this happen, can it be avoided, and how do we survive it?

1. In nursing school; Nursing instructors, and at times other nursing students, whom are consistently calling to attention your weaknesses, when you really want to be just left alone. Intensely frustrating when your grades are in the hands of your professors, and awkward when you are assigned to pair up with the students who just aren’t nice.

-Know your material, for yourself, and for the patient, study what you are going to do before a clinical, or before you go into a patient’s room. Gather supplies, know your meds, be prepared always for your own peace of mind, as well as being part of a team when you are going in with fellow students. Avoid conflict. Divert your concentration to learning, the patient, and the task at hand - not at belaboring why they are targeting you. Nothing is ever lost in gaining knowledge.

2. Hazing; As a new graduate, discovering there is unfair treatment, which sometimes involves a sink or swim mentality, first admissions, the worst district/zone, nursing assistants who refuse to help.

-If you’re a new graduate, or new on the unit, hazing is almost certainly expected: for the most part, it is charge nurse specific, and a sort of prayer you don’t work with them too much, it’s either a lesson in endurance and a sh!tload of brand new knowledge and skills, or you can quietly mention you’ve been receiving all the first admissions, worst districts. Alternatively, you can go about your work and silently prove them wrong. Focus less on what’s fair, focus more on your own learning, and how you can make the best of each situation.

3. During hand off report; Constant interruptions with “why didn’t you do this?” And a sort of passive aggressive attitude designed to intimidate.

-During hand off, the interruptions can actually be unsafe. If they’re interrupting you, it disturbs your train of thought, and you may forget an important piece of information. Subtlety does not work here. Remind them you have not finished, (or a variation of requesting they wait a damn minute). An alternative way is to lead by example, when you’re receiving report. Quietly allow them to see you are not interrupting them. Allow them to see you are respecting them, and focusing on the patient.

4. Exclusion, via cliques, and favoritism; Unit outings, parties and favoritism, where only certain nurses receive help. Quiet or introverted nurses assumed snobbish merely because they choose to not be involved in unit gossip, find themselves at the forefront of discussion.

-It takes time to build solid friendships, but it takes less to ascertain who is genuine and who is not. Steer clear of drama, avoid conflict, and steer clear of gossip. Always help other nurses, regardless of whether they help you. It’s about the patient. People will always have opinions, interpret things their own way, say what they want to say, but they will eventually run out of new material and move on. Concentrate on the few people who have shared work ethic, similar interests, and a little humor to get through the day.

5. Challenged; New graduates who aren’t familiar with medical team rounds, and put in the spotlight by the Attending MD, as a sort of test of knowledge.

-Keep your written report on your patients with you, during rounds. If the attending attempts to make an example of you, answer as best you can, and ask questions about your patients. Never let anyone diminish your ability to admit to not knowing, and maintain your interest in learning about what you can do for your patient. Listen attentively, and observe well. Keep the focus on the patient.

If you’ve experienced, or witnessed intimidation, what perhaps comes to mind are two things; something needs to change, and, likely standing up to intimidation is easier said, than done. (And sometimes there is no recourse except to consider moving to a less contentious environment). Why it is occurring is not as relevant as how we are reacting to it. Avoid conflict. Practice patience and tolerance, but never allow anyone to underestimate you. Release the tension, remember the lesson. Above all remember that no outer being can disturb your inner consciousness, your ability to learn, or your desire to do what’s right for your patients.

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