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Bullying: our dirty little secret

12 September 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 16

Many students will have already taken their first steps into nursing this new academic year. They have entered our profession with great expectations. This September will see undergraduate nursing students working towards entry on to the professional register and newly qualified nurses in their first jobs.

Those who are new to nursing can very often be treated with open hostility and not open arms, and they can sometimes be shocked by the way the ‘caring’ profession demonstrates how it cares. This topic was raised by Meissner in 1986, who asked the question, ‘Are we eating our young?’ Her conclusion was, overwhelmingly, ‘Yes’. Thirteen years later she revisited the question and she unfortunately concluded that the answer was still ‘Yes’ (Meissner, 1999).

Meissner (1999) suggested that many nurses, at all levels, were committing a type of genocide—an insidious type of cannibalism from within that will damage the profession more than any outside forces. Bullying behaviours that are experienced by nurses are not only inflicted by nurses but also by doctors and others. According to Gillespie et al (2017) bullying is a known and continuing problem. Brunsworth (2015) asks, ‘Are we full yet?’, and adds that our ‘dirty little secret’ is often seen as a rite of passage, a test of character, ‘earning your pips’ and an experience that has to be endured.

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