Dr. Renee Thompson: The MOST Powerful Intervention to Stop the Cycle of Nurse Bullying

Dr. Renee Thompson: The MOST Powerful Intervention to Stop the Cycle of Nurse Bullying

This post is the tenth in a series of posts on nurse bullying and conflict in the workplace written by Dr. Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN. Dr. Thompson is one of the top professional development and anti-bullying thought leaders in nursing.

You’re walking down the hallway on your unit. When you turn the corner, you see and hear Martin screaming and yelling at Maggie, a new nurse. Martin is pointing his finger at Maggie and calling her stupid. Maggie looks like she is ready to burst into tears. 

What do you do?

You have two options…

  1. You walk up to Martin and confront him about his behavior
  2. You turn around and walk the other way (and hope they didn’t see you)

What would most nurses do? Most nurses would turn around quietly and walk (or run) the other way. Why?

Because we get really uncomfortable confronting other nurses about their behavior. We think, “it’s none of my business,” or “I’m just glad he isn’t yelling at me,” or “I’m afraid of what he or she will do/say if I speak up.” 

The AACN and Vital Smarts conducted a study a few years ago and asked 1,700 healthcare employees this question (I’m paraphrasing): If you witnessed bad practice or bad behavior, would you speak up?

How many of us do you think would speak up to a physician who is about to insert a central line but isn’t using five barriers, or speak up to someone like Martin who is being overtly destructive and unprofessional on the unit? How many?

Ten percent. 

That means that 90 percent of us would stay silent! Can you see how our silence is impacting our profession and patient outcomes?

The good news is that there is a solution. The solution is to embrace your role as a witness. 

The number one most powerful intervention to stop the cycle of bullying is for the witness to speak up, not the target

The next time you witness bullying behavior, take a deep breath, push past your discomfort and speak up! Walk right up to Martin and say, “You’re screaming and yelling at Maggie in the hallway where patients and their families can hear you, and you need to stop.” And then support Maggie, she will need it.

As Matt Langdon of the Hero Construction Company stated so eloquently, “the opposite of a hero isn’t a villain – it’s a bystander.”

Nurses created the phrase, “nurses eat their young.” Nurses are the ones who can stop it. 

Be kind, take care, and stay connected!


Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author, award-winning nurse blogger, and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate workplace bullying. To find out more about Renee, please visit her website. American Sentinel University friends and family can get 25% off Renee’s great anti-bullying products – simply enter in the code: AMSENT16.

Empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case managementinfection control, and executive leadership.


Learn what American Sentinel has to offer:

Let us answer any questions you have. Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch quickly.

By clicking the button above, Post University has your consent to use automated technology to call, text and email you regarding its educational services at the contact information provided above. It is not a requirement to provide this consent to attend Post University. Post University’s Terms and Privacy Policy apply.

How Leaders Can Improve Population Health Management
Nurse Keith: To BS, or Not to BS? That is the (Nursing) Question!