Sadly Caught Up in the Moment: An Exploration of Horizontal Violence

Nancy Walrafen, MS, RN, OCN; M. Kathleen Brewer, PhD, ARNP, BC; Carol Mulvenon, MS, RN-BC, AONC, ACHPN


Nurs Econ. 2012;30(1):6-12, 49. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


While researchers continue to explore horizontal violence for a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon and its root causes, there is currently agreement on two issues. Horizontal violence is prevalent in the nursing profession, and the experience of this behavior is psychologically distressing, threatening patient safety, nurse moral, and nurse retention (Joint Commission, 2008; McKenna, Smith, Poole, & Coverdale, 2003; Simons, 2008). While discussing this phenomenon at a nursing retention committee meeting, all but one of the 15 members present had a story to relate about a time when they experienced bullying. Strong emotions were evident in the telling of these stories; whether they occurred in the recent or far distant past. This led members of the committee to the central question of this study: Is horizontal violence occurring within our organization, and if so, how prevalent is it? Griffin (2004) defined horizontal violence as overt and covert actions by nurses toward each other and especially towards those viewed as less powerful. Based on this definition and using the most common behaviors, Griffin (2004) identified from the nursing literature, the nurses in our hospital system were surveyed to further explore this phenomenon.


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