Disclaimer: This story discusses suicide and self-harm. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the 998 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 998, text TALK to 998, or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
Many of us who have worked as nurses know how difficult it can be to deal with toxic co-workers. In situations where we might encounter someone unpleasant, we might shake our heads, shake it off, and go about our days. But what about when it feels inescapable? What about when you’re also dealing with your own possible mental illness? What about when you feel like there is no help available to you?
Sadly, for one nurse in the UK, investigators have concluded that bullying in the workplace led her to ultimately take her own life. According to an article in The New York Post, 30-year-old Rhian Collins, a psychiatric nurse at Cefn Coed Hospital in Swansea, Wales and a mother of two young children, hanged herself in her home in March of 2018. After a 5-month long investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death, it has been concluded that Collin’s death was the result of her having experienced issues at work, particularly with bullying co-workers who made her life “very difficult,” per the report.
One of the officers in the report noted that Collins was dealing with being sworn at, bullied, and thought that she was being given the worst shifts. The troubled young woman also showed signs of a possible mental health disorder that developed as a way for her to cope with the stress, with the officers describing her as “obsessed with her appearance,” often going to the gym four times a day and taking weight-loss pills.
Her fiancé, David Reed, who was the one to discover her lifeless body when he came home to bring their children to her, described how Collins had become “run-down and exhausted” in the month prior to her death. Her death has made headlines across the globe, as people mourned the loss of a woman whose Facebook page shows posts of a happy, vibrant woman celebrating her children’s accomplishments and playing with them on school breaks.
- “Rest In Peace Rhian Collins,” read one post in her honor.
- “Sorry you felt like you had to take your life due to bullying 😓😪 we need to do better as an entire race.”
Changing The Culture of ‘Nurses Eat Their Young’ to ‘Nurses SUPPORT Their Young’
Collin’s death has brought the very serious issue of nurse bullying at work to light, with others sharing their stories and talking about what to do if you feel that you are being bullied at work.
The issue of nurses being bullied at work is so prevalent, in fact, that some research states that as many as 85% of nurses have experienced bullying at some point in their career. Bullying in the workplace can be incredibly difficult to deal with, because the bullied individual may feel like there is truly no place to turn, or that they may be at risk of losing their job if they speak out about what they are experiencing.
And many of us go into the nursing profession being warned about nurses “eating their young,” which let’s face it, is just code for bullying.
Are You Being Bullied At Work? Here’s What To Do.
Fortunately, the tide is turning and more young nurses are coming to realize that bullying in nursing does not have to be a norm and that they can be part of changing the culture of nursing. The more we talk about it, the more we are able to end bullying at the workplace. If you are being bullied at work, you can follow some steps recommended by the American Nurses Association’s recent campaign to end bullying and violence in the workplace:
- Know that you are not alone. Many victims of bullying tend to internalize their feelings or convince themselves that they are to blame, when in reality, bullying is very common. For instance, reading a comprehensive 2012 study detailing the experience of 99 nurses who were bullied can help you recognize that you are not alone.
- Seek out resources. Check if your state is one that has laws on reporting or offers violence in the workplace programs
- Speak to your nurse manager or supervisor. If you can, arrange for a closed and confidential meeting with your nurse manager to talk over the situation. There may be workplace solutions that could help, such as re-arranging your schedule or ensuring that there are other coworkers working alongside of you to be more supportive.
- Talk with your coworkers. There may be other nurses who are feeling the same way that you are.
- Arrange a meeting with HR. Going to a higher-up on the list to discuss workplace bullying may be necessary, especially if your bully is a nurse manager or other supervisor. In some situations, it may be helpful to arrange a sit-down to discuss any issues that exist.
- Talk to your union rep. Your union rep may have suggestions or other resources in your area to help you, or lending your voice to speak out against bullying in the workplace may start a push against it happening to others.
- Text TALK to 998 to have a conversation with a trained crisis counselor or call 998 immediately if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
Bullying has no place in the nursing profession, so let’s all do our part to help end it today.