Abusing In The Workplace In The Nursing Profession

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Abusing in the Workplace


Workplace violence has been a problem for decades, and it has become crucial for all employees and managerial staff to be informed of the proper definition of workplace violence and how to prevent it. However, in a profession that requires its employees to be constantly aware of their behavior and ethical values, the nurses should recognize abusive behavior among colleagues and within one’s own character in the workplace (Swan, 2018). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 2019) consider any behavior that threatens or leads to acts that may cause physical harm, verbal abuse, and even homicide as a workplace hazard. Additionally, the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) classifies the workplace as any location, which could be either temporary or permanent, where employees perform their duties related to their work (Swan, 2018). Therefore, nurses who work in buildings, which can be healthcare centers or in patients’ homes, their surrounding perimeters, and even parking lots, are workplaces.

Workplace Violence

If any intimidation, threat, rape, shooting, suicide, stabbing, or even beating occurring in any of the abovementioned places, the case would be considered as workplace violence. However, the violence does not just have to occur physically but even through cell phones and on the internet (Addressing co-worker abuse, 2020). Co-worker violence is just one of the four major types of workplace violence. Others include violence by a stranger, violence by a customer or client, and violence by a romantic partner (Swan, 2018). The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses states informs that it is required of all nurses to ensure the culture of kindness and civility is cultivated to create a conducive workplace environment (ANA, 2015). This requires the management to ensure the workplace is safe, healthy, and crucial policies and evidence-based practices are developed in case any form of violence occurs, everybody would know what to do, and correct measures would be taken.

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Recognizing Workplace Violence

The behavior of violence among nurses can exists in many forms, including nonverbal intimation such as the rolling of the eyes, raising eyebrows, and specific voice pitches. Others include sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, undermining authority or colleagues, withholding information, sabotage, scapegoating, among others (Gaffney, DeMarco, Hofmeyer, Vessey, & Budin, 2012). Also, if any employee recognizes evidence of another purposefully giving misleading information or setting up another to make them appear incompetent should realize that these might be some of the signs of workplace co-worker abuse in progress.

Causes of Workplace Abuse

However, the nursing profession is stressful and exposes employees to intense work that is highly regulated by strict codes of conduct and norms. Due to the challenging environment in the workplace, teamwork is put at risk as well as the health of the patients. This is because violence leads to wasted resources and unnecessary risks (Rainford, Wood, McMullen, & Philipsen, 2015). Sometimes the abusive behavior is due to mental illness or personality disorders; such violence mostly exists in organizational cultures that tolerate it (College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta, 2020). Two ways the organization tolerates the behavior is by managing breaches of code of conduct poorly and having organizational leaders with questionable ethics (Addressing co-worker abuse, 2020). Therefore, the organization’s culture is responsible for the development of workplace violence, where it exists.

Ethical Considerations

When nurses engage in violent behavior in the workplace, they violate three general principles of biomedical ethics. These include nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice (Matt, 2012). The principle of nonmaleficence requires all nurses to never harm people. Therefore, for those colleagues who bully their co-workers, they violate the principle of nonmaleficence. Secondly, the principle of beneficence guides nurses in the practice of behavior that prevents and removes any harm that exists and may harm another. In the process, they promote good with their actions hence achieving better patient care (Matt, 2012). However, a healthcare staff who violates this principle fails to act accordingly or as per the ethical codes of conduct. Lastly, justice is the last principle that requires nurses to treat everyone equally and fairly (Matt, 2012). This means that to abuse fellow co-workers, a nurse has to have no compassion for others, and hence their moral character is flawed.

Besides, the virtue of discernment enables nurses and medical professionals to make decisions that are devoid of bias. It means that any judgments arrived at are without fear and personal attachment (Matt, 2012). According to Matt (2012), this virtue helps nurses know the right thing to do. It is the moral compass guiding the professionals towards best practices and the provision of better health care. Nurses engaging in bullying behavior lack discernment, and their moral character is not strong.

Employer Responsibility

In the United States, both the federal and state governments require all employees to adhere to certain guidelines when operating in certain regions and specific industries. All these efforts, at some point, assist in making the workplace safer and more comfortable (Swan, 2018). The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 requires employers to provide a working environment that is generally safe from obvious hazards that may cause death and/or physical injuries. However, the law also addresses workplace violence. This is achieved by protecting employees who exercise their rights from repercussions of their agitation of better working conditions, especially when the employer can be fined and cited for any injuries acquired in the workplace in the course of accomplishing work tasks (Swan, 2018). Therefore, it is important that a manager advocates for culture in the organization, which does not condone violence.


Adding to the daily challenges, the nursing profession already has a lot of stress-causing factors, and it would be unfair for co-workers to add to those factors, especially in the workplace. Violence has been a factor in the health care industry, where it has been categorized according to the offender in this paper. However, this does not mean that organizations protect their employees from all. Since this is an occupational hazard, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health have developed new ways to make the work environment safer and as comfortable as they can. Other measures, including having a Code of Ethical Conduct and a list of virtues guides the way the professional operate treat each other, and even their patients. Therefore, abuse in the workplace is an ethical issue that requires to be addressed and better ways to curb the practice devised to protect not only the nurses but also everyone they interact with.  


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