You’ve worked hard to improve the culture of your hospital and are finally seeing the fruits of your labor with improved HCAHPS scores, reduced turnover and increased employee satisfaction. Unfortunately, it only takes a few incidents of lateral violence among your nursing staff to undo your efforts.
In the past, lateral violence was largely ignored. “Nurses eat their young,” was the joke, and it seemed no one cared to change the status quo. While today’s environment is better for both patients and hospital employees, this doesn’t mean lateral violence and bullying are no longer an issue. As a nurse leader, it’s up to you to creating a plan to change attitudes and behaviors, and finally putting an end to the problem.
What is Lateral Violence?
Lateral violence is when one person exhibits harmful, hostile or aggressive behavior toward a coworker or group of coworkers.
Lateral violence can take many forms. Nurses may be overly critical of a coworker or may even publicly humiliate a fellow nurse. Sometimes ignoring or excluding another nurse can be just as damaging.
When this behavior includes withholding information a nurse needs to do his or her job, patient care may suffer.
Lateral Violence Affects Everyone
Working on a unit where tensions are high isn’t good for anyone. After repeated incidents, the victims of bullying may begin to experience depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome, which can affect job performance.
Even if you are a bystander, you may still feel stressed when bullying dominates your workplace.
What Can Be Done?
As is often the case with bullies, those who were bullied tend to become the bullies. Establishing policies to address lateral violence and holding workshops that teach better ways to handle disputes are a good start to ending the cycle.
Changing the attitudes of some of your veteran nurses—particularly those who believe they’re just showing tough love to younger nurses—may not be easy. Developing a mentorship program where veteran nurses mentor younger coworkers can help combat the problem. When longtime nurses are invested in the success of another nurse, they may be more likely to encourage them, rather than tear them down.
Other ways to reduce lateral violence include:
- Providing Conflict Resolution Training to Nurse Managers. Confronting a bully isn’t always easy, even if you’re his or her supervisor. When you offer conflict resolution training to your team, they can learn the skills they need to confront workplace bullies and be an example for acceptable behavior.
- Encouraging Teamwork. Lateral violence is more likely to be an issue when nurses haven’t forged bonds with their coworkers. Encouraging brainstorming during unit meetings can help nurses develop a rapport. Additionally, setting goals as a group and praising team members when goals are met can make working as a team more appealing.
- Involve Human Resources. Members of the Human Resources department are professionally trained to mediate hostility in the workplace. Additionally, victims of lateral violence may feel more comfortable discussing incidents with an objective third party instead of someone within their own department.
An essential aspect of building a positive culture involves making your hospital a place where nurses can truly feel comfortable and valued. Creating a comprehensive plan which addresses lateral violence will help you stop negative behaviors and improve employee satisfaction.
Could your HCAHPS scores use a little boost? Read our free guide, A Nurse’s Guide to Positively Impacting HCAHPS, for tips that will help you raise those numbers.