Lateral violence is a big problem in health care & the nursing profession

However, hospitals are beginning to be more proactive about addressing the inappropriate behavior.

It is also known as horizontal violence.  Lateral violence, basically bullying or verbal abuse, not only elevates stress levels in nursing staff, but it can endanger patient care.

There really has not been too much research on nurse hostility, but there needs to be in order to better understand the phenomenon in order to better address it.  Identifying lateral violence is one thing, and its a starting point- but there is much investigation to be done in order to help reduce the occurrence.

Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility:

For the past few years, nurse education on lateral violence has been included more often in orientation programs in many health facilities.  The nurses spend a few hours learning to recognize acts of lateral violence such as verbal abuse and then practice different techniques to address it.

Nurse Hostility Is Everywhere

Nurses often report seeing cases of other nurses ‘eating their young’ but what is more disheartening is that they believe their nurse manager is aware of the inappropriate behavior and did nothing about it.  Or even worse, that the managing experienced nurses seem to actually encourage it! In fact, an astounding number of nurses (I’ve seen reports between 80% and 95%) have either seen lateral violence and nearly 50% say they have been subjected to it in their nursing career.

Some nurses actually feel forced to leave their positions because lateral violence is so pervasive in their workplace.  There has been research showing 60% of new nurses right out of nursing school will leave their first positions within six months due to lateral violence in the workplace.

What causes Lateral Violence?

There seems to be many reasons for and types of the nurse hostility.  Sometimes it is just due to high stress and tension levels by individuals due to circumstances like being over worked.  This can happen when experienced nurses, already with a heavy workload are required to precept a new nurse or nursing students-adding to the workload.  Patience tends to run short, and the more experienced nurses are resentful for the extra work.

Often this is where verbal abuse, and even sabotage of other’s work can happen.  Unfortunately, it is not only the nursing staff that is affected, but this behavior can affect patients’ well being and can even endanger their lives.

Bottom line is this horrible behavior needs to come to an end.  More study in to the matter will help devise methods to address the behavior.  Nurse managers must also be first responders to stop lateral violence immediately.  In order to do this, they must become familiar with it and solutions.

Beyond this, health care facilities must be hyper aware of and vigilant at addressing issues like under-staffing and other staff stressors.  Nurses must work together with management to help stomp out lateral violence.


Filed under: Nursing Profession

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