Nurses speak out about culture of bullying in profession

The nursing profession is facing a crisis with low pay and low staff numbers, and now low self-esteem can be added to the list of problems.

Stories of bullying in the nursing profession have come to light this week with nurses being humiliated, harrassed and bullied.

Some of the stories are horrific, and they were shared with The Project by people who are too scared to speak out publicly.

"When someone's life is miserable It affects everything, it's soul destroying," an experienced nurse said.

She took sick leave to escape, struggled to get up in the morning, and went on antidepressants in response to the bullying.

"I didn't want to face the bully, I didn't want to turn up at work," she said.

The nurse has worked in both the private and public sector during a 20-year career in nursing.

"I've witnessed bullying from new graduates, through to senior nurses bullying senior nurses, nurses...it's through the whole stream of nurses," she said.

"Bullying isn't about a nurse having a bad day and yelling at someone, it's a person within an area who will pick on one or two or more nurses and they will undermine them, they'll make derogatory comments, they'll gossip, they'll pick on them to the point that they are second guessing what they're doing for clinical assessments for a patient."

As strikes loom, over 40,000 people have joined a Facebook group where nurses feel safe to air their grievances.

The comments reveal nurses who are overworked and struggling to get by in toxic workplaces with a culture of fear. 

A study shows that 34 percent of registered nurses in New Zealand had considered leaving within their first year because of bullying.

"They leave nursing altogether, because they're so burnt out, and questioning themselves, the safety of making decisions for patients," the nurse said.

She said there needs to more support in place to stand up to bullies within the industry.

Most of those who submitted their stories to the Facebook page were too afraid to appear on camera when asked by The Project.

NZ Nurses Organisation advisor Margaret Cain says the shortage of nurses and staffing within the health profession is part of the bullying problem, because nurses are under increasing pressure while earning less pay.

"We have a workplace relationship program that we are putting out and wanting to put people through...we're also working with management about how they deal with these issues," Ms Cain said.

She said Middlemore Hospital and Auckland Hospital have put in programs to offer more support for nurses.

"It's still a fabulous profession, and we need to work to get this right," Ms Cain said.

Newshub.