Mean Nurses: Verbal Abuse of Early-Career Colleagues

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP


July 22, 2013

In This Article

Survey Findings

More than 1400 early-career registered nurses completed the survey. Whereas almost half of the sample reported experiencing some degree of verbal abuse from colleagues, most commonly in the form of being spoken to in a condescending manner or being ignored, only 5% reported high levels of abuse, defined as at least 5 episodes in the previous 3 months. Nurses reporting all levels of abuse were statistically more likely to be female, white, married, English-speaking, in good health, and without young children. They were also more likely to work in a hospital setting (although not a magnet hospital) in a direct-care role and to work 12-hour-day shifts. In contrast to some other studies reporting that nurses working in intensive care units were more likely to encounter verbal abuse, this study found the opposite to be true.

Nurses reporting higher levels of abuse were more likely to report a lack of supervisory and mentor support, lower levels of workgroup cohesion, and fewer promotional opportunities. These nurses were more likely to report that there were fewer nurses working than scheduled on most shifts, and were also more likely to indicate intent to leave their current position within the next 12 months. However, of interest, they were actually more likely to indicate that they planned to be in nursing in 3 years. Nurses reporting no abuse had significantly higher degrees of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intent to stay. Demographic factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and language were not related to degree of abuse, nor were work characteristics such as type of unit or being in a direct vs nondirect care position.


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