Nurses and Bullying: 4 Things You Can Do

Nurses and Bullying: 4 Things You Can Do

Case study: Cindy was an older new grad. She went back to school after a long and successful career as a chemist, deciding that she wanted to be a nurse and explore other avenues of service for her “second half” of life. Capable and efficient in her first line of work, it was a shock to find herself as a novice where everything felt unfamiliar and where mastery was a ways off. Her first place of work was on a busy ortho floor. The second week at work, she called me crying. “Their expectations are so high. They keep threatening me.” I tried to listen without judging or offering advice, but something just seemed off. Every few days she texted or called and what she described didn’t seem like anything I had ever experienced as a nurse: where there should have been mentoring, there was censoring; where there should have been guidance, there was abandonment; where there should have been counseling, there was silence and isolation. The source of most of the problems was her preceptor, a young nurse, who my friend described and very physically attractive but unkind. As it turns out, she was a bully.

Nursing is not immune to bullying.

Nursing is not immune to bullying. While we would hope that in such a caring profession, we would find a greater percentage of people with compassionate care agendas, sadly there are also a number of practitioners who exhibit the characteristics of a bully: they are critical, negative, they isolate their victims, avoid meeting with them, and generally make life miserable.

According to a study by Etienne, “Bullying in the nursing workplace has been identified as a factor that affects patient outcomes and increases occupational stress and staff turnover.” (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/216507991406200102)

The trouble with bullying is that it is often subtle and therefore difficult to recognize as such. While the playground bully may be overt and even violent, the adult bully is usually disguised under heavy layers of professional accomplishment and years of experience with manipulating others. They come in all shapes and sizes, both men and women, old and young. The “mean girls/guys” from 7th grade grow up, don’t they? But sadly, they sometimes don’t leave behind their old ways of treating others, and they bring those tactics with them when they put on their scrubs and head to the nursing workplace.

One of the primary manifestations of bullying is that the victim often feels that it is all his/her fault. After exposure to the bully’s tactics, they may even think to themselves, “If only I did this or that better, then they would not treat me this way.” The thought processes at the center of the bully/victim relationships can sometimes be lifted straight from our textbooks about abuse. Just as victims of domestic abuse many times blame themselves, nurses who are victims of bullying find themselves looking inward and wondering if there is something wrong with them.

What are some of the classic signs of a bully boss or co-worker? (https://www.yourerc.com/blog/post/20-subtle-signs-of-workplace-bullying)

Some more subtle signs:

Deceitful and manipulative- making promises but not keeping them or using promises to purposely disappoint.
Shaming and blaming- bullies want the victim to blame themselves.
Ignoring or undermining work- purposely “forgetting” to notify someone of meetings, belittling their work or accomplishments.
Intimidating and criticizing- setting impossible standards and even threatening.
Diversion and mood swings- bullies might avoid the victim so that the work issues cannot be resolved in a timely manner; and they are subject to widely varying moods (which boss/co-worker will be coming to work today? The sweet one or the nasty one?)

Overt bullying:

Aggression and intrusion- actual physical altercations with the bully entering your personal space.
Belittling, embarrassing and offensive communication- using their position to cause you harm, either physical, psychological or professional.
Coercion and threatening- pushing the victim to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing and using threats of termination or other punishment to get compliance with their demands.

So, if you or someone you know if being bullied in the workplace, what can you do?

Document- Keep a record of any threatening or inappropriate emails, texts or interactions. Should it become necessary to report the bad behavior, it will be important to have specific occurrences, words used, and frequency of episodes. Also, learn your workplace policies on bullying and what your recourses are.
Detach- Try to look at the occurrences in light of how this person treats others. Have you been “picked out” for special scrutiny? Bullies are sometimes bullies across the board but at times they pick out a few victims, zero in on those and treat others as allies, making the other staff members into (sometimes) unwitting accomplices for their own bad behavior.
Dare to Defy- Standing up to a bully is hard and practically can be impossible. Often, persistent bullying requires cutting our losses and moving on to another position. But adult and boss bullies—like those on the playground—can respond to pushback: maintaining eye contact, standing firm, ignoring or not acceding to their demands. This is harder to do than it sounds, because the victim of a bully at work frequently is not in a position to resist and finds themselves being jerked around by the perpetrator’s continually changing and escalating demands, whims and moods.
Defend- Be on the lookout for bullying behavior around you and if you see something, say something.

As for Cindy, in the end, she resigned after 3 months and went in search of another job—certainly not the route a new nurse wants to have on her resume—but a physical and psychological necessity given the bullying she experienced. After the rocky start, she went on to have an extremely successful career as a nurse and to find the profession a satisfying fit for her talents.

Have you witnessed bullying in your workplace? How have you been a victim of bullying?

The 500

500 or more
They stand
Strong and silent
Thirsty
Thirsty
By the flowing river
Of the Water of Life.
Their feet curl along the edge
Careful not to touch the crystal Water
For fear.
Of What?
Of giving in
To the tide of purity that sweeps over all?
To the water of life that answers every thirst?
They know in their heads
But not in their hearts
They see with their eyes
But not with their spirits.

Instead of joining the great flow
They resist.
Thirsty
Thirsty.
Unwilling to give
Themselves to
The only Truth there is.
Pride holds them fast
Firmly rooting them in place
Along the dusty banks of life
Pursuing but never finding–
Even though it is right there,
All along.

Some dip their feet in
And splash around
Happy to have found
Some semblance of
Meaning
Purpose
Fulfillment.
Thirst-quenching
Ever-filling
Life.

Just a very few
Throw themselves in.
Completely,
Unequivocally,
With abandon,
Never turning back.
They drink deeply of the Waters
They breathe it in,
Immersing
Filling every thirsty crevice.
They turn to beckon their friends,
Joyfully urging them to taste and see
That the Lord is Good.
To drink from the well that never runs dry.

Guided and invited
The 500 come,
Inching forward
Still Afraid.
But buoyed by Hope
That friends profess:
The Water is sweet
There is a Gracious plenty.
Come and enjoy
True life.
Drink from the Source.

A Prayer After the 4th

A Prayer After the 4th

Oh God, Holy One.
Our nation has been seduced into
Thinking wrong is right
That wealth is might
That an unkind spirit wins
That justice belongs only to the rich.
We ignore the needs of the poor
By justifying our own selfishness,
Saying, “I have earned what I have,
Let them do the same”—
All the while disregarding the grace
That bring us to this place.
Turn our hearts away from pride.
Clothe us in humility and let us take stride
Behind the feet of our Master,
Imitating his Spirit and averting disaster
By being true children of Light
Who keep service in our sights.
Let us not be manipulated
But instead inundated
With the desire to see clearly
What you love so dearly:
Justice
Mercy
Humility.
Yes, Lord, Make America Great Again.
But this time in the ways that provoke a true Amen:
Great in service,
In Love,
In Righteousness
In Purity
In Compassion
In Inclusiveness
And in Kindness.
If our country truly is of Thee
And lives into its calling as a “Great Land of Liberty,”
Then let us sing,
Consciousness to bring,
That far we have strayed
From the way we were made.
So wave the flag proudly
For He is our Star
And by His stripes we are healed,
As we lift our hands to his glory
Our destiny will be fulfilled.

Joy Eastridge
July 2019

The Heart of Holiness

As we stood with 100,000 other pilgrims in St. Peter’s square, trying to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, I felt the powerful holiness of the moment because so many of us were there for a single purpose: to seek after God. The determination of the personal holiness of the Pope or the variety of religious traditions around us were irrelevant. What really mattered was the crowds’ singleness of heart in seeking out God.

I felt a similar feeling at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Truly, touching the stone that was designated to mark the place where the Baby Jesus laid to rest, had no particular import. What really mattered were all the people, from every nation milling around me, looking for God in any way they could find him. Touching that stone was holy because of the millions of people who had been there before me, hearts set on uncovering a God who often hides himself, only to be discovered by those who seek him with a heart of love.

“Surely you are a god who hides himself, Israel’s God and Savior.” Isaiah 45:15.

God places the desire for him in each of our hearts. It is the center of being, the core of the spirit, the place where the soul resides. Every day we have a choice: acknowledge our need or not? Cover it up with busyness or lay it bare for the Holy One to fill in his way? But God is not pushy or demanding. He stands quietly, patiently waiting for us to see him, in all the myriad places he lives: in a rock, in a flower, in newly tilled soil, in the smell of rain, in the sound of wind, in the smile of a child, in the neediness of a homeless neighbor, in the fevered brow of one who approaches death. God is there. God is here. God lives everywhere, but he only reveals himself if we stop to seek him.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6

Seeking the Christ in everyone and every thing is the duty of our life. It is our purpose. What strangles us is when we limit God to certain types of people and a few allowable manifestations, all connected with our particular tradition. Our limitation of a mighty God has nothing to do with him and everything to do with our own desire to control him and to pridefully “know” the answers about God. When we open ourselves to the unknown, the mystery of faith, the encounters with holiness that transcend all of our own efforts, only then do we begin to see the ubiquitous presence of the Spirit of God, transcendent and holy.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” Psalm 73:23.

As we read his Book, the guide to life he has given us, and helped to interpret through his people over the ages, we tend to see it as we would an instruction manual, full of neatly defined steps that guarantee good results. What we fail to read in it are the plentiful references to a God beyond our understanding, one who continually reveals himself over the ages, one who has not stopped sending his prophets just because the revelation is considered complete. God loves his Word and wants us to love it too and to learn it and to live by it, but he is not contained in it. He is not limited by it. He is not controlled through the devoted learning of its passages.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27

As God lives in us, planting the seed of his spirit in the human heart— the riskiest of all divine adventures—we walk around as a dim personification of the Christ in the world. The more we live into this model he has set before us, the more we transmit the fruit he desires to bless the world with. When we nurture this Christ in us, we emanate the lovely perfume of Christ and we hold forth the light of his love, blessing those around us and offering to them the fruit that comes forth from a Spirit blessed to be full of Jesus.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

In his death, Jesus multiplied his work and his disciples. As he sent the twelve forth to “Feed my lambs,” he sent them as sowers of the seed, cultivators of the soil and also as keen observers of his work in the world. His invitation was to “Go into all the world” and to open the eyes of our hearts, inviting us to see him in unexpected ways. He did not say he would follow a prescribed method, a 12 step approach, a particular dogma. Instead he roundly condemned those who sought to limit him, those who worked out of a desire for worldly recognition and a flaming pride. Jesus’ anger against the part of humanity who claimed control over God was real and remains a warning to us today: don’t get too cocky about all the you “know” but live instead in the childlike faith that is open to the every day uncovering of Christ in all things and in all people everywhere.

“Let the little children come; and do not forbid them for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:14)

What does Jesus mean when he makes this radical statement? He certainly leaves the door open for those who are true seekers, not just for those who feel they have arrived. If we love as children love, we will stop seeing others by our own definitions of worthiness and instead with hearts full of grace. My prayer for all of us as we walk this pilgrim’s journey, is that the God of the past, present and future, will continue to reveal himself in unexpectedly joyful ways!

Love One Another–All “One Anothers”

Love One Another—All One Anothers

“The Muslims are trying to take over our country,” my friend said, fear barely disguised in his voice.
“Really? What makes you say that?” I asked.
“I saw them all at a rest stop one time in Ohio. They had on their robes and they were bowing to Mecca.”
“So what percentage of the US population do you think is Muslim?” I asked, trying to get to the bottom of his concern.
“Well, I don’t know that. I just know they are taking over. They are everywhere, in sports, everywhere,” his voice trailed off but the edge of certainty was audible.
“I have looked it up, and it’s about 1%,” I told him.
“1% what?”
“1% of the total of the US population is Muslim,” I clarified.
“Well, that doesn’t matter. They are still taking over. I just don’t like them.”
“Them, who?” I asked. “Muslims in general? That’s 25% of the world’s population.”
“I can’t help it. I just don’t like them.”

This conversation with my committed Christian friend continued to trouble me throughout the day, leading me to the Bible where I looked for words of guidance. What I read called me to greater humility, love, patience and advocacy.

Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Here Jesus is inviting us to be loving toward other disciples, even those who are seeing the world through a lens of fear and judgement. Earlier he also spoke of obedience to his words as the sign of his touch on our lives, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has a greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14)

When we see our fellow disciples walking in a way that is contrary to what Jesus taught, we have the obligation, the command from our Lord, to continue in a loving relationship with them. In this case, what does a loving relationship entail? How do we lovingly help one another navigate through our prejudices, especially when the world around us does nothing but stoke the fires of fear and insecurity?

When we live in a world-view dominated by fear instead of love, we see “others” as threatening instead of, as Jesus proposed, beloved by him and worthy of our love too. When we live in fear, we build walls, long for bigger prisons and arm ourselves for self-defense—for what choice do we have? Evil is out to get us.

In John 3:16 and Matthew 28:19-20 we read some of the most often quoted verses of scripture, both of which tell us of God’s great love for all of humanity, no exceptions, and our call to go and do likewise. Throughout the ages, we read in scripture and in later “His-story” instances of God’s people hating others, persecuting others in the name of Jesus, and even killing vast numbers supposedly to further the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of us roundly condemn these behaviors and exempt ourselves from the propensity to do such evil. And yet. Here we are in our day, making statements about people of other religions trying to take us over. If we really ponder the view he espoused, wouldn’t the logical outcome of that statement be that we need to control, oppress or even fight against those “others” that are taking over?

In the words of Jesus we find a completely different approach, a way that leads to love and life eternal: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5: 11-12)

Regarding our ostracism of those who threaten our nation, our selves, our way of life, our color, our culture, our language, Jesus advocates for a way of love that is beyond the capability of the human heart and there only through his grace, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:43-46)

In our grace-less humanity, we long to draw lines of demarcation around our love. It is so much easier that way. This is white. That is black. This is me. That is you. This is great. That is not. We love the rules, the enforcement, the exclusion of doubt, the judgment. But then we have this Jesus, this lover of our souls that will not let us go, that will not leave us alone in our lack of love. He keeps pulling us out of our circle and making it wider until, before we know it, the whole world, every last one of these creations of his, stands with us in our circle and we have no choice but to give it all up and love.

Through Christ, we are blessed with courage and power that are not naturally in us. 2 Tim.1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) The fear is held in check by the power, the love and the sound mind—all employed together to keep us from giving way to the flow of self-interest that runs through our veins when we live in the flesh. Life in the spirit is an invitation to leave all that selfishness behind and to pursue, unfettered, the joy-filled life of love that Jesus invites us to.

Back to my friend. What do I say? How do I love him with Christ-like love?

Let us pray that our lives will be ruled by love and not by hate.
Let us pray together for those we are inclined to hate for we all have challenges—your struggle may not be mine, but I have struggles, too.
Let us keep reading all of God’s love letter to us, and examining it with new eyes and open hearts, every day.
Let us remember that when God brings people that are “different” into our lives, he does it with an invitation for us to love better, deeper, wider, longer so that we can be transformed in the process.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit of God to live in us and make us over from the inside out into people that look just like Jesus, the lover of all our souls; lover of every last one of us on this earth.

Nurse on a Mission Trip

I left for Belize on a Saturday after running around getting ready to be gone for a week, I almost plopped into my airplane seat, grateful for a few minutes of respite when I began to wonder, “What have I gotten myself in to?” Going was my daughter-in-law’s idea. As a PA, she had been wanting to go serve as part of a medical mission. My husband, a family doctor, and I readily agreed to join a team that gradually grew to 28 to serve for a week in the inland part of the Central American country of Belize.

Long a part of the British Commonwealth, the country has English as its official language but with a total population of under 350,000 it remains needy with many parts of it underserved medically. Our team went to work in a compound that housed a medical and dental clinic where foreign doctors came 4-5 times a year. We were there to volunteer doing everything from family medicine and dentistry to screenings, hearing assessments with fitting for solar powered hearing aids and giving out of basic “reader” eyeglasses.

The first day we went to church in the morning and then saw 50 people that afternoon. Overwhelmed by the numbers of people and the long lines, we immediately began to work to prioritize, triage and figure out how many people we could realistically serve a day so that we would not end up having people wait all day only to be turned away. We did our very best to work with compassion and efficiency but there were still people we could not get to.

As a nurse and a sort of coordinator for the team, it was my job to help match volunteers with jobs they were suited for and to watch over the general work of the clinic, intervening where there might be problems. Together with other nurse volunteers, including a local nurse who helped with translations when people were not fluent in English (Belizians speak a mix of English, Spanish, Creole, and some Mayan languages), we checked vitals, weights, blood sugars, occasional hematocrits and lots of urine samples for infection and pregnancy. Our team had access to on-site X-rays, some ultrasound and EKG. The dental clinic also had X-ray and was fully functional to do most extractions and some restorative work. Some of the patients moved between dental and medical and even on to eye checks and hearing tests to get the full benefit of all the services provided.

Modern medicine and cell phones made it possible for our doctors to work with physicians back in the US to assess and offer expertise on cases. One young man, age 15, came in with a bullet lodged in his lower brain. The images were sent to a neurosurgeon stateside and also to a radiologist and a pediatrician. Together they concurred that surgery might do more harm than good and that he should not have it removed because of the risks involved with surgery. When seen, he was 2 weeks out from his injury and walking with minor assistance. The educated opinion of the experts, rendered from far away, were a great help to a family that did not know which way to turn.

The most difficult cases we saw were the ones where we felt our hands were tied by circumstances beyond our control. The breast mass, the severe heart murmur in a younger man, the colon cancer, the “spells” that remained undiagnosed—all caused the team anguish as we conferred, prayed, and tried to find a way forward. In a place where few have insurance and the medical system is cash based, not having money for a procedure simply means that it will not happen. In the end, we tried to give some assistance to the hardest cases we faced, but all were daunting as radiation and chemo and surgery are scarce and mostly unavailable. Extended treatments often require travel abroad, something that involves another set of hurdles, including the necessary paperwork and large amounts of cash.

After a busy week of seeing hundreds of patients, I was left with one predominant emotion: gratitude. Gratitude for what we were able to do, gratitude for the appreciative response of those we reached out to and those we worked with, and gratitude for all that we have here at home. In spite of the difficulties involved, overseas medical missions is productive in that it refocuses us on things that really matter: relationships, compassion, and the unity of all humanity as we occupy one fragile planet together. Yes, we are different but my goodness, we have so much in common. Whatever nation we are from, our bodies work in much the same way and malfunction in similar ways; our passion for helping our loved ones is undiminished by deprivation and scarcity of resources and our desire to be treated with dignity is uniform.

My hope is that we did a world of good in our week in Belize. Realistically, I know that the impact was relatively small. Some would argue that the resources spent in taking so many people was not worth the benefit. However, I would argue the opposite. The seeds of love and care sown will continue to bear fruit for years to come and more than that, our team was changed. We all came back with a bigger vision of our place in the world and our greater responsibility for our neighbors, both here and beyond.