A victim of bullying speaks out

The publication of the results of our bullying survey in the January issue
sparked this letter from a reader which vividly illustrates the problems
experienced by many OH nurses. We would welcome any responses from readers who
have had similar experiences or who would like to suggest ways in which a
situation such as this reader describes might be tackled.

I am a specialist nurse practitioner working in a service that covers the
NHS and private contracts, providing a service for about 16,000 staff. All the
nurses over the past few years have experienced verbal, public and mental
bullying in some shape or form by the director of the service who is also a
doctor (Dr X).

This doctor has no management or people skills. His autocratic management
style has led to nurses leaving – driven to despair by the constant petty

Clinical departmental meetings are led by Dr X and the nurses feel afraid to
speak out for fear of being belittled.

Verbal bullying manifests itself in the way Dr X treats staff at meetings.
For example, one nurse had not performed a procedure correctly, so instead of
tackling that person alone, a "Hitler-style" approach was adopted to
tell the whole team how this procedure should be done.

Nurse and specialist practitioners work extremely hard: there are three
nurses short of the service agreements and work has trebled in the past year – no
acknowledgement has been made of this.

Mental bullying manifests itself in the form of constant petty comments –
not to the individual themselves, but to the nurse manager who has to relay the
information. Why is this person wearing the wrong earrings? Why is this person
laughing? The bullying continues until the nurse breaks, either through going
off sick or leaving.

Dr X has a deep loathing of nurses in general. There is no respect or
feeling of worth for nurses in the department.

Communication skills are totally lacking and information is not relayed from
meetings. We learn information about our service from outside sources. Policies
and procedures are not distributed for comments or ideas, and as most policies
are not available, if advice is sought from Dr X, he usually retracts what was
said the next day. There would be no back-up for the nurses if any issue went
to court.

Ideas and thoughts from nurses are ignored, innovation is ignored, and
specialist skills are not acknowledged, such as workplace visits to reduce the
doctor’s workload.

Dr X will even belittle staff in public and at lectures, stating that if
employees want any advice about serious problems, not to tell the nurses
because they cannot keep confidentiality and to go straight to the doctor for

As it may now be apparent, morale in the department between the nurses is at
the lowest ebb. Dr X cannot speak to staff in a decent and respectful way,
lacks tact and diplomacy and angers the nurses immensely.

Dr X admits to not being able to delegate tasks, but refuses to accept that
he is a control freak unable to trust anyone, unwilling to share information,
scared to praise staff and with an ultimate deep loathing of nurses.

Help is now being sought from a higher level and senior nurses are soon to
tackle the issue. If there is no resolution at this stage, then formal
grievance and bullying procedures will come into place.

The organisation needs to see that on its own doorstep there is deep
unhappiness and resentment among the people Dr X employs.

Name and address supplied

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