Mean Nurses: Verbal Abuse of Early-Career Colleagues

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP


July 22, 2013

In This Article

Verbal Abuse From Nurse Colleagues and Work Environment of Early Career Registered Nurses

Budin WC, Brewer CS, Chao YY, Kovner C
J Nurs Scholarsh. 2013 April 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Verbal Abuse by Nurses

Disruptive behavior. Incivility. Bullying. Lateral violence. Workplace aggression. Abuse of nurses -- by other nurses and by physicians -- has long been a sad staple of nursing life. Verbal abuse in the workplace is extremely common, as research in both the United States and internationally has documented. Previous studies used varying definitions for abuse and often were conducted in convenience samples of nurses. Such studies also often focused on identifying the extent of abusive behavior and did not examine the personal and workplace factors associated with the behavior. The purpose of this large, national panel survey was to examine the relationship between verbal abuse by fellow nurses and the personal characteristics, work attitudes, and work settings of early-career nurses who reported being on the receiving end of abuse.

Survey of Early-Career Nurses

This analysis used data from the fourth wave of an ongoing national panel survey of nurses, first administered in 2006 and last sent to participants in 2011. Participants completed the Verbal Abuse Scale (VAS) which asks respondents to report how frequently they have experienced any verbal abuse from colleagues, excluding supervisors. Participants were asked whether they had experienced a colleague yelling or raising his/her voice in an angry manner, swearing or making obscene comments, making insulting comments, employing condescension, making humiliating or abusive comments disguised as a joke, or ignoring the nurse. Each instance of abuse was quantified on 3 levels: never, 1-5 times in the previous 3 months, or more than 5 times in the previous 3 months.

A final VAS score for each participant was calculated by totaling the scores for each item and dividing by the number of items answered. Scores ranged from 1 to 3, with higher scores indicating more severe abuse. Additional surveys measured intent to stay, job satisfaction, supervisory and mentor support, workgroup cohesion, promotional opportunities, collegial physician relationships, and other factors affecting work attitudes.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.