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Construction and similar industries may get the most attention for being unsafe, but as you may well know, occupations in health care are just as hazardous. In fact, OSHA reports that employees in health care and social assistance sustain the most workplace injuries. Environmental dangers range from biological hazards to patient violence.

However, one source of harm that some overlook is abuse from other nurses. The culture of bullying in nursing contributes to much workplace harassment and violence. No matter who you are working with as a nurse or what your position is, you deserve respect.

Defining the problem

The American Nurses Association differentiates between the various forms of inappropriate conduct. Incivility refers to rude but not necessarily intentionally mean behaviors. Bullying comprises continual actions with the purpose of humiliating or hurting in any way the recipient. The action can be physically and/or psychologically violent. Examples include hazing, verbal abuse, discrimination, sabotage, threats and physical attacks.

Consequences of workplace violence 

The immediate consequences you may suffer as a victim are distress, fear and bodily harm. These can lead to loss of productivity and workdays, serious mistakes on the job and suicide in worse-case scenarios. Furthermore, when bullies purposely withhold, change or lie about information, patients can suffer severe effects. The contention and disrespect can also cause loss of trust between patients and providers or increase patient-on-worker violence. 

What you can do

When you suffer a physical or emotional injury at the workplace, you do not have to tolerate it or quit your jour job. You may be able to hold your employer legally responsible. Employers have the obligation to provide a safe work environment, train all workers on harassment prevention and recognition, allow for safe reporting of violations, stop violence and discipline offenders properly. Depending on the type and severity of bullying, you may have the option to sue the bully directly. Either situation requires the guidance of a qualified lawyer to help you know the right route to take.