Bullying in Nursing
Examples & Stories

Of the new nurses who quit their first job, 60% cite bullying behavior as the primary reason.

~ Dr. Renee Thompson


Dr. Renee Thompson : Nurse & Bullying Expert

Dr. Renee Thompson

Nurse & Bullying Expert

CEO and President of RTConnections, LLC


Dr. Renee Thompson discusses
"How to Catch a Professional Bully"

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Influential Leader in the Fight Against Nurse Bullying

Dr. Renee Thompson is an influential leader in the fight against nurse bullying and harassment.

With over 25 years of experience as a nurse, nurse educator and nurse executive, Renee fully understands the issues many face in the healthcare industry.

Renee is one of the most sought out speakers in the industry for nurse on nurse bullying, repeatedly published, interviewed and awarded for her dedication to helping inspire current and future nurses.

Renee's seminars & presentations focus on:

  • Improving clinical and professional competence
  • Eliminating nurse-to-nurse bullying
  • Effective communication and leadership
  • Building a positive and healthy workplace
  • Nurturing a culture of respect

In the article below, Dr. Renee Thompson will explain the steps you need to take to create a better nursing environment, free from nurse bullying.


Nurse bullying has been around since we donned our white uniforms.

I’m quite sure that nurses back in the early 1800s experienced the same behaviors we see today (intimidation, open criticism, exclusion, etc.). 

Every nurse has heard the phrase, “nurses eat their young” and were warned about the mean, crusty nurses when they were in nursing school. The problem is, now we eat our young, our old, and everything in between!

With the increased attention on professional practice, inter-professional relationships, innovation and advanced education, shouldn’t nurse bullying be decreasing?

As I travel the globe helping individuals and organizations eliminate workplace bullying, this question often comes up.

Is bullying getting better or worse?

While I wish I could say that we are seeing a decrease in reports of workplace bullying, many studies show that bullying is on the rise in all industries but in particular, it’s getting worse in healthcare.  93% of healthcare employees report witnessing or experiencing bullying behavior.

93% of healthcare employees report witnessing or experiencing bullying behavior.


Bullying in Nursing is Occurring

I’m seeing the same thing in my world.

Almost every day a nurse reaches out to me asking for help to deal with a bullying situation at work.

It breaks my heart to hear their stories of sabotage, backstabbing, exclusion or being dumped on and made to feel unworthy.

How can nurses be so caring and compassionate to their patients but so cruel to each other?

It’s so bad that many nurses are choosing to leave the professional all together.

The reality is, nurse bullying is alive and well.

One of the reasons is that many targets of bullying think they are powerless to do anything about it, especially if tortured by a gang of bullies or if the bully is their boss.

However, that’s what the bullies WANT you to think.

The bullies are wrong! If you’re being bullied, you are NOT powerless. There is something you CAN do.




Every time a nurse shares his/her bullying story with me, I ask this question:

"Have you documented your experiences?"

In most cases, the answer is no.

Action Steps to Take Against a Bullying Nurse

  1. Document the bullying behavior immediately

    If you are being bullied, START DOCUMENTING your experiences.

    Keep a small notebook with you and write down dates, times, witnesses, verbatim comments, and any behaviors you believe constitute bullying behavior.

  2. Transfer your notes into a more formal documentation system 

    This can just be an electronic file or something more substantial, like Forensic Notes which can make sure your documentation is "court ready" just in case you decide to take legal action.

  3. Link bullying behavior to patient safety 

    Anytime you can link the bully’s behavior to a patient safety issue, you have a greater chance of your leaders taking action. 

    Patient safety is on the radar of administration and is more likely to be addressed.  

    One nurse shared with me that the bully took away her trach patient’s call bell and then wrote her up for "not having the call bell close to her patient."

    What the bully didn’t realize was that patient witnessed her (bully) moving his call bell and reported it to the manager.

    This nurse was then terminated.


Create the nursing environment you want - No Nurse Bullies!


Example of Workplace Bullying In Nursing & Fighting Back Against the Nurse Bully!

I received an update from a nurse who reached out to me last year regarding a bullying situation resulting in HER termination from employment.

This nurse had been documenting her experiences all along – dates, times, verbatim comments, facts, etc.

She decided to take legal action against her employer and the bullies and sought the help from an attorney.

Although it was a long road, she just won her case!

She decided to take legal action against her employer and the bullies and sought the help from an attorney.

Although it was a long road, she just won her case!


In her update, she thanked me for supporting her and other nurses who are targets of bullying and shared the following advice:

"Document, document, document everything you see, hear, and suspect to be occurring.

This proved to be vital to my case, as the themes I documented in my notes (while still employed) and had given to my attorney well before the discovery (sharing of records) process began approximately two years later.

As discovery began, it became more & more evident how much of what I suspected to be occurring was occurring during the 8-10 months prior to termination."



I’m so happy for her that her experience was validated and that she is being compensated for her pain and suffering.

Documenting your experiences is one of the most powerful actions you can take against bullying.

Documenting your experiences is one of the most powerful actions you can take against bullying.


Let’s each do our part to finally stop the cycle of nurse bullying so that we can get back to the essence of nursing – delivering caring, compassionate, and competent CARE.

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected.





Renee Thompson Site Logo

As an international speaker and consultant, Dr. Renee Thompson tackles the clinical and professional challenges facing healthcare leaders today.

With 26 years as a clinical nurse, nurse educator, and nurse executive, Dr. Thompson is an expert on workplace bullying, professional development, and clinical competence.

For more information about Renee and her work to stop the cycle of bullying, go to www.ReneeThompsonSpeaks.com


Nurse Bullying Examples

Bullying in nursing affects both new and veteran nurses. Unfortunately, nurse to nurse bullying has been around since the beginning of the nursing profession leading to the common belief that “Nurses eat their young”.

Nursing causing you stress?

But a common question is:

“Why do nurses bully?”

As Dr. Thompson points out in one of her nurse bullying articles, there will always be bullies in nursing as “humans have been bullying each other for centuries”.  But this doesn’t mean that you have to accept and tolerate bullying within your nursing environment.

So why do nurses bully other nurses?

Dr. Thompson has found that nurse bullies have 5 common traits.

5 Common Traits of a Nurse Bully

  1. Bullies need targets to survive
  2. Bullies tend to be really good clinicians
  3. Bullies see the workplace as a battlefield
  4. Bullies enjoy keeping their targets guessing about when the net attack will occur
  5. Bullies don’t play by the rules

Nurse Bullying Examples

Dr. Thompson provides the following examples of Nurse Bullying within an American Sentinel article.

Bullying Nurses: Examples can include both Overt and Covert Bullying

Overt Nurse Bullying:

  • Verbal criticism or name-calling
  • Intimidation
  • Blaming
  • Ethnic jokes or slurs
  • Finding fault
  • Threatening
  • Physical violence

Covert Nurse Bullying:

  • Sabotage
  • Withholds information
  • Excludes others
  • Unfair assignments
  • Undermines
  • Downplays accomplishments

Bullying in the Workplace : Nursing Workshop

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