Impact of the Pandemic on Nurse Bullying


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may come as no surprise that increased job stress and patient frustration have resulted in an increasingly hostile environment for nurses. Nursing is a profession that requires long hours in a high-stress environment, with a heavy workload thanks to the current nursing shortage. 

These factors create a workplace that is ripe for nurse bullying. 


Nurse bullying, simply put, is a direct or indirect act of hostility or aggression. It can occur nurse-to-nurse, also called lateral violence and nurse incivility, or it can occur from patients, visitors, or other staff. Some examples or nurse bullying include:

  • Belittling
  • Minimizing
  • Name-calling
  • Yelling
  • Pushing/shoving or blocking paths
  • Ostracizing
  • Gossiping
  • Ignoring calls for support
  • Extreme micromanaging


Many believe nurse bullying is inherent in the profession. “Nurses in the profession call it ‘eating our young.’ Some consider it ingrained in the culture, a rite of passage, or an unavoidable fact of a nurse's life,” Nursing Administration Quarterly says.

The prevalence of nurse bullying is a bit staggering. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 72% of nurses in the Geisinger Health System reported experiencing unprofessional behavior in the last year, and only 35% of these reported the behavior to a supervisor. 

A few more statistics: 

  • Anywhere from 18-31% of nurses are bullied by colleagues, 43% have been verbally assaulted or physically threatened by patients or their families, and 24% have been physically assaulted by patients or their families (American Nurses Association).
  • 60% of nurses leave their first job within 6 months due to their coworkers’ behavior (National Library of Medicine).
  • Up to 34% of nurses consider leaving the profession entirely, due to nurse bullying (Nursing Administration Quarterly).
  • Bullying is pervasive among management too. 60% of managers, directors, and executives reported bullying, with a quarter of these reported as “severe.” (Journal of Nursing Management).

Nurse bullying can have detrimental effects on not only the victims, but entire organizations where bullying is prevalent. It can create a culture of low job satisfaction, decreased morale, absenteeism, low productivity, and fear. It can also lead to increased costs for the employer, not only due to organizational inefficiency, but legal expenditures as well. 


Organizations should strive to create an anti-bullying environment for all employees and patients/families. Here is a list of things to consider when building an anti-bullying policy: [Include resource links?]

  • Recognize the issue and define bullying/harassment clearly. 
  • Take a zero-tolerance stance on direct/indirect bullying, whether in-person or online.
  • Educate on the issue, including team members, leadership, and the public entering facilities. 
  • Train leadership to model desired behavior among nursing staff.
  • Create a simple reporting procedure, and take all reports seriously. Encourage bystanders to report behavior they witness. 
  • Create a committee to oversee the anti-bullying program. This committee can review for needed changes and track improvements. 
  • Provide mental health resources for nurses. 
  • Strive to mitigate stressors as much as possible to create a positive work environment for all.

Additional resources can be found here:

Nurse bullying is currently a pervasive problem, and an expectation in the profession. However, with consistent and dedicated effort, organizations can create an environment that is safe and positive for nurses, staff, administration, and patients alike.