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ADC: Health service bullying is ‘rampant’

Bullying in the workplace is ‘rampant’ in the Irish health service, extracting a high price in terms of financial and emotional damage, the INMO AGM was told.

“Bullied staff cost more in sick leave, low efficiency and pensions,” Mary Love, Bantry Branch, informed her nursing and midwifery colleagues during debate on a motion on bullying. Several delegates went on to share their personal stories of being bullied at work, experiences that had left them psychologically scared for years afterwards.

The INMO resolved to take a more proactive role in identifying and challenging the bullying of members in the workplace, and in supporting the victims of such bullying.

“It’s a major issue,” said Ms Love. “It’s the elephant in the room.”

Mary Love, Bantry Branch

She highlighted a number of reasons why bullying still prevails in the Irish health service, including greater pressure in recent years on nursing and hospital management to meet shrinking budget targets.

“Staff are being harassed into undertaking new roles and new working conditions,” she explained. “And there is the fear that feeds bullies; the fear of reprisals, of being disadvantaged, of being criticized, of being shunned by workmates, and the fear of being penalised by management.

“These are reasons not excuses. We must all work to create a climate where bullying cannot flourish and this Organisation must put pressure on the HSE to ensure that its own policies on bullying become an everyday practice in the workplace.”

Mary McCormack, Waterford Branch

Mary McCormack, Waterford branch, said that, as an INMO rep for nearly 30 years, the majority of issues raised by colleagues were in someway related to bullying. She told the conference that her personal experience of being bullied, which was only resolved after external mediation, adversely affected her confidence for many years afterwards.

“The thing about bullying is the subtleness; it’s the talking behind your back, it’s the sneaky sideward looks, it’s the clicking of pens at meetings; the undermining of you in every way,” Ms McCormack said, describing the level of bullying in the workplace as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘rampant’.

Kay Garvey, Athlone Branch, maintained that the prevalence of bullying is worse now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, adding that she has attended meetings “where I even felt bullied and I was physically sick at the bullying that went on with the managers”. On one occasion 12 nurses and HCAs were all reduced to tears.

“Managers have a duty of care to their staff. Happy staff are good staff, they work very hard,” she pointed out.

Mary Leahy, executive council, urged anyone who is experiencing bullying at work to speak out. “Please don’t feel it has just happened to you, I was bullied, most of us have been bullied. Take it to your IRO, take it to your rep, speak to colleagues about it, don’t feel you’re on your own, do something about it and don’t accept it.”

Louise Devlin, Dublin South West Branch, highlighted a new study published in the American Operating Room journal, which found that 75% of all nurses experience or witness bullying in the workplace, and many of these nurses leave an area or leave the profession altogether.

“Lets care for each other as a caring profession, lets watch out for our colleagues and support each other. Prevention is better than cure. Lets stop the bullying,” she said.

As a result of the motion being passed unanimously, the INMO has since teamed up with NUIG and the National University of Ireland to undertake a survey on bullying in which members are actively encouraged to participate.

ADC: Health service bullying is ‘rampant’


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Bullying at work
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June 2014 Vol 22 (5)
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