A nightmare that started with bullying!

A nightmare that started with bullying!

A nightmare that started with bullying!

Some months ago I wrote a blog, Midwifery clique: was it bullying or cultural control?  There I referenced an article by Shaun Lintern “A cultural review of maternity services at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust”.  Among the responses this blog generated was one from Dawn who suggested we should talk as she knew a great deal about this hospital (in Liverpool, England).

We did talk and Dawn spoke about her experience as a midwife at this hospital.  Her experiences occurred prior to those noted in the article but they reflected exactly what had been described.  Serious bullying, a culture that promoted the development of a midwifery clique and a management “that didn’t want to know” when complaints (and there were many) were made.

I asked Dawn to write down her story, to provide information about what went on, what happened to her specifically and what have been the consequences to her life and her career.  My thinking was we could collaborate on a paper that might inform and alert fellow professionals about bullying.

Dawn provided her story and I believed her.  The behaviours she experienced were those the report had noted.  What was shocking was what has occurred as a result of fighting for her reputation, her career, her life.

I cannot even attempt to collaborate, I provide her story as she told it.

Dawn’s Story

My problems began in 2000 when I went to work as a critical care midwife.  This new role was developed to support midwives in the management of sick pregnant women which was becoming an issue as midwives were not qualified or prepared to look after these women. At the time, they were still using monitoring equipment that was outdated, dangerous and that they had no real experience of.  So what… well my first experience of being bullied was one of being physically pushed and told that ‘we don’t need the likes of you here…we have done this for years!’ (by the likes of me they meant someone who was not only midwife trained but also had massive experience in anaesthetics and HDU… someone with the knowledge and understanding of what was safe and appropriate).  I reported this incident to my line manager and the head of midwifery at the time who chose to do nothing!

Things carried on like that, for some time and despite raising these issues with management, I continued to be harassed, belittled and reduced to tears by my so called colleagues.

The role of advanced midwifery practitioner was introduced which would incorporate the critical care role, so I was appointed to the team.  Little then did I realise that life was going to be made unbearable.  Nasty comments, told to dumb myself down because it upset people who hadn’t or couldn’t see opportunities to develop patient services, training for staff, being published.   Nasty notes sent to me by one individual (the lead bully) anonymous threat letters, harassed at home to come in at 11pm when I was a day off, (at the time I was married to a police officer who was on duty until 12pm. I was told to be in at 11pm or else. When I said I couldn’t as my step granddaughter was with us, (she was 2 at the time) I was threatened with the ‘or else’ scenario and told that she ‘didn’t’ give a shit’ what your husband is working and I was to make sure he was home at 12.  I said that I wasn’t prepared to leave a 2 year old on her own at home and that if my husband arrested someone he could be late home…she didn’t care about that and I was ‘to make sure he didn’t arrest someone.  I rang him told him what had happened and he had to take time off so I could go in.

When I did get to work they said I wasn’t needed. That is when my husband started to become violent to me and his colleagues had to remove him from the home for the first time.

My father was diagnosed with Motor neurone disease and was slipping away, his regular hospital attendance was supported by either myself or my sister. When I asked, a whole 6 weeks in advance, for a day off on a particular hospital visit day I was told no, yet another midwife whose mother was going in for a planned op was allowed that day off with 1 days’ notice.  Finally I did get the time off with the threat of you owe the team one!  I did not care what they wanted me to do as pay back, I just wanted to be with my dad, I would have crawled up a mountain in flip flops if I had to so I could be with him.

The bullying went on so much that despite my pleas for help to my manager no one wanted to know. I became so ill that it started to affect my physical health as well as my mental health.  So every opportunity I could I would go off sick, even if I wasn’t.  There were days when I would beg my husband to let me stay off work, like a frightened school child, when I did go in I would finish my shift, get to the car and thank God that I had survived another day of it.  Work wasn’t safe, home wasn’t safe either.

I was falsely accused of suturing a woman incorrectly that I had not, the midwife who could have supported me knew this was wrong and yet wouldn’t support me, she was too scared to cross the accuser because of her power position.  I was sent on a suturing course. I might add that this had to be paid for by myself and claimed back.  My husband was livid and yet again, I saw the ugly side of him. The course was during my stint on nights, I took the night before it and the night off after it. My colleagues were aware and were asked to cover those nights.  I went on the course only to be greeted that evening with a vile phone call from a colleague who was livid with me for taking the nights off, and who wouldn’t even listen.  Husband became angry and telephoned the labour ward expecting to speak to this person who wasn’t even on duty, he became violent and was again removed from the home.

The next morning husband returned escorted by colleagues so he could collect his things, while he was there the phone rang. The head of midwifery wanted to know why I had taken the two nights off, why couldn’t I have worked the night, gone to the course (a two hour drive away) and then come in on nights.  Now, I don’t know if it’s me that is stupid but isn’t that dangerous?  Husband leaped to the phone and had very angry words, with the caller. I told her I would not be in that night because of what had happened and again I was threatened, this time told I was to work the next 7 nights or I would be marked as absent without leave. I was in no state to even brush my teeth yet alone work.  I was lost, scared and alone.  I was told not to go near Trust property, not to speak to anyone including my friends. The process of isolation had begun. Even the counsellor at the Trust abandoned me to protect himself.

On the advice of the staff support officer I stayed at home for 5 months.  Now given that an investigation is, by the Trusts own policy, supposed to take no more than 3 months, they were way out of time.  I had my pay halved and eventually sent to work in the smaller sister hospital as a recovery room nurse.  I was there for over 12 months before they started pushing me to attend meetings with HR and midwifery managers.  Incidentally, my union rep made herself very scarce and got others to come to some meetings. She was ambitious and wanted to be a manager so being involved in this would harm her prospects.  Meeting after meeting, they called but no union rep available.

After several weeks of this, I went to a meeting with a colleague. I was told that there were unresolved issues regarding my clinical practice (these were supposed to have happened 3 years earlier!!!), which needed to be resolved; news to me.  My supervisor of midwives and the lead bully had written to me or so she claimed as had a manager, so she claimed.  I had never had any of these letters. They couldn’t even produce them when I asked.  Instead, they threatened me again.  Meeting after meeting, and every time a new allegation.  I told the Local supervisory midwife about this and she didn’t want to know. They wanted me to take responsibility for these (failures), I had never been made aware of any of these, been suspended, anything. They wanted me to sign a document relating to supervised practice. I was on the edge, so agreed. At the final meeting yet another allegation (interestingly this was thrown out along with another by the NMC*). This was the final straw and I would not sign.

During this time I had completed my masters (degree), to the annoyance of managers and completed a management qualification at night school (I had been on a waiting list to do a similar, lower level course, of course this was blocked after complaining).

At yet another meeting to discuss the way forward, the head of midwifery was ‘angry’ to realise I had done this.  I was told that I had to have a particular supervisor of midwives who incidentally was friend of the lead bully. This is against supervision policy, but they didn’t care.  I was told that if I wanted a different supervisor they – my colleagues, would have to be told of the issues! I was also told that I would be downgraded as I didn’t possess a masters that was now essential for my continuation in my substantive post,  hence the anger when I told them I had not only completed an  MSc but also graduated.  I asked for this in writing as the meeting notes, which confirmed this.  What they didn’t realise is that at the same time they had advertised my post with no mention of a masters being essential. When faced with the job ad they tried to take it from me. They did return it but only under duress. My feeling is that they didn’t want me back and if I did return I would be made an example of.  One of the three anonymous letters even told me that…Words I remember very clearly- ‘fuck of bitch we don’t want you back, just wait”.

Having been warned by several midwives that it was not safe to return I chose, finally not to.  It would have killed me in so many senses of the word. This decision led to a referral being made to the NMC for the unresolved, never investigated issues.

So what were they going to do with me?  Well HR said they would help me find another post in the hospital. They (the clique) and management tried every way they could to block this even trying to deny the existence of one manager’s phone extension.  Laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Yes, I went to the NMC, I had to sell my home to self-fund it. I received a caution for not countersigning an entry from a midwife and yes they questioned the suturing incident but I know in my heart and will always know I did nothing massively wrong. The NMC barrister even said the case should never have been heard and that they failed to investigate the case properly.  What he didn’t want me to say is that I had been bullied, yet another attempt to silence victims.  If I mentioned being bullied he would come down hard on me.

The Local Supervisory authority, years later and after me pushing them, admitted they failed me; the Trust won’t acknowledge any wrong doing even though they know the truth.

I was a happy go lucky hard working person who thought nothing of going the extra mile. This experience has destroyed me. I have severe depression, struggle to cope with it every day, and yes people say move on, but how when everything you worked for is taken away. Maybe I should have kept quiet and just left, yes I’ve been told “it’s all my own fault” and “you did the right thing” but it has stolen my life. Those who knew and did nothing are as culpable as the bullies themselves…for me it’s about doing what is right not what is easy.  I have no home and no job. Don’t laugh but I look at houses for sale on the internet and dream that I will have a home of my own again, but deep down I know this is only to be a dream.  I cry every day that someone will give me justice.  I hide my pain every day.  In my darkest moments I have prayed that I won’t wake up.  My MP (who did ask the Trust to provide my documentation but that letter was ignored) the CQC*, the NMC, don’t want to help victims.  We are disposable, replaceable yet we are human and stood up for what was right. We have the biggest hearts that are turned cold by the behaviour of others.

Why did this happen, simple, the lead bully, and I shall call her that, was surrounded by friends who were too scared to cross her. She used her power to manipulate and control. She didn’t want anyone with a brain or vision to exist. The Trust knew she was a bully, and only acted when a letter was leaked to the press. They are as guilty as her.

*Nursing and Midwifery Council UK* Care Quality Commission; role is to monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety.

There are some fabulous webinar recordings by Pam Savage regarding Nurses and the Law on the Nurses for Nurses Network . The  Nurses for Nurses Network provides good information and CPD  on an array of nursing topics  in a range  of easy learning ways including webinars and quizzes on the  latest information that Nurses need to know – remember the Nurses for Nurses Network was created by Australian Nurses for Nurses ! www.nursesfornurses.com.au


There are 18 comments for this article
  1. JANET ROBRTS at 12:40 pm

    This level of bullying is horrific and I feel desperately sorry for Pam, and would like to know why, when it was quite obvious, as it always with bullies, that they will never stop, Pam, did you not know that this scenario, once it gets started, never ends, and that nurses many times will not support each other? they are like pack animals, and once they find someone, they will literally kill everything in her life before they are satisfied. WHY did you not leave early in the bullying, as you are a mature woman and know it wont ever get better? its sad but true that life is not like a movie where the good guy wins, the bullied almost never win, the only satisfaction they can get is to get out of the situation, with your incredible skills and education, you could surely have gone elsewhere? I know bullying destroys your confidence in yourself, I experienced it during clinical placement and know how horrific it is, but believe me, I mentally processed it and it has never happened again, and I have never had to leave a job for it. I have never participated in it either. Student nurses are particularly vulnerable, and I have seen nurses cluster together and ignore students, will not sign off on their workbooks and generally treat them terribly. It goes on and on. It never ends for nurses, and generally women are the ones who treat other women this way. I would have got out of there within a very short time, and it would appear you should have given your old man the boot as well. However, we are all different. I came to nursing as a second career as a mature age person and can work out which way the wind blows quickly, and would never have stayed in that toxic environment, I know you and many others may say that is “giving up”, and that is true, but we dont live forever and life really is too short to stay in that environment. Get out, hold your head up high, and MOVE ON to better things. Nurses can get careers anywhere, especially with skills like yours. It always surprises me that some people just dont fit into one workplace, but slot in marvellously in another, without changing one thing about themselves, Im sure we have all seen this, or perhaps experienced it. Some workplaces just dont suit a person, that is not their fault, its just the way it is, so that person just needs to move on and find their perfect fit, without blaming themselves.

    • katherine at 8:07 am

      It always amuses me, when patients say how lovely we are, and thanking us for our care and humanity. When nurses know what a very tough inter personal environment we work in. I have been struck at how paranoid and fearful new nurses are, I call them rabbits caught in the headlights.
      We all get bullied, I would say from cradle to grave. Its our reaction to defending yourself, and recovering your ground that keeps us on track. Janet who wrote the 1st reply has her very useful strategies. She is absolutely correct in saying you cannot win in a headlong fight against bullies. the personal cost is too high for one thing. Midwifery is particularly known amongst nurses, for its viciousness, how paradoxical! The practise of midwives suturing patients , I assume she is referring to episiotomy? An extended skill thrust upon nurses by doctors, fraught with legal peril, dangerous and foolhardy for a nurse to do this kind of procedure, as Pam found out. When someone has it in for you, what a wonderful way to bring you down. You will be out there on your own, left to play in the traffic, and all the wise old survivors will run for cover. Deficiencies in the system or that hospital or medical practise will all be laid at your door, and nothing will change. You are made a scapegoat.
      As well as studying bullying, we should understand our own tendency to become a righteous victim. Pam appealed to all the usual, unions, legals, even an MP. The truth is they’ve got it coming at them from everywhere, and they don’t touch it unless its in their own interest. Its the same as a nurse at a dinner party, when everyone wants to tell you their health concerns.
      It seems to me , that Pam has thoroughly exhausted herself. Its natural enough, and waving degrees of various levels really doesn’t mean much when your heart is broken. Degrees sometimes make you overly idealistic or infected with hubris. There is no degree that repairs a broken heart. There is only the wisdom of protecting yourself, that is experiential, acquired by hard yards. Finding antidotes , creativity, time out, beach walks, exercise. Nursing is a dangerous , hard, exhausting job, hard on relationships, often soul destroying. The challenge is coming back. Again and again. And again.

      • Pam Savage at 11:34 am

        Katherine you are sadly correct in your summary. Certainly Dawn’s experience is a lesson and your comments like Janet’s give readers good advice. I felt a bit depressed reading your comments though, I really believe it is possible to change the culture of bullying, the more aware we are and the stronger we are in standing up to it and stepping up to aid victims the quicker it might change. Pam

    • Pam Savage at 9:13 am

      Hi you make some really good comments and I have forwarded these to Dawn who I am sure would agree with the benefit of hindsight. From my understanding of her story the escalation of both home and work life into a terrible spiral just got away from her. Like you I am sure most of us have seen these negative cultures and time and circumstances affect how we approach situations. Hopefully your comments will give direction to others. Pam

    • Marie at 10:00 am

      Sometimes an insecure manager can encourage mobbing because they feel that you are a threat to their job.

      Sometimes managers will listen to a rumour of a few insecure or lazy colleagues too. These colleagues may hate the fact that you may work harder than them and they feel like you are showing them up so they stir up trouble and the manager goes what is the easiest way to get rid of the staff member because they want to take the easiest route, rather than doing things fairly.

      The problem is for the business, this stops the business from excelling because they lose the most talented and passionate staff who have ideas that could be used at that hospital and the sister hospitals. Nobody is going to donate ideas to a business where they have not been treated well. The person is more interested in moving on with their lives. One of these suggestions could save someone else’s life – maybe even managements lives one day.

      If managers don’t crack down on lazy staff there are more incidents and headaches for managers.

  2. Anon at 5:22 pm

    Dawn. I’m living your life right now. I’m fighting and it’s taken everything. No one will employ me as I’m fighting management and have the tag of a whistleblower with mental health issues.

    My marriage has fallen apart, I’m bankrupt, my health, physical and mental has suffered. My family is supporting me financially though I’ve been assessed as “fit for work”.

    After waiting several months for relocation I was given the choice of returning to my place of injury. I was promptly reported for issues that are the basis of my injury. Lack of insight.

    I can’t stop fighting, there is nothing left to lose. My heart is with you. How pathetic that I don’t have you’re strength to sign my name. It would only make things worse.

    • Pam Savage at 11:42 am

      Hi it is tragic you need to remain anonymous and like Dawn’s story yours is a nightmare. I fear for you in the ongoing fight, I cant offer solutions and given your experiences you have no doubt sought advice and failed to find help. Perhaps sharing this story is a way of shining a light on a terrible situation that others can learn from. I wish you well and hope that you can achieve a resolution. Pam

  3. Anon at 12:23 pm

    I will never lose my hope until the story is over. I can identify with the comments of both Katherine and Janet, yet if no one stands up it will never end.

    So many people are aware of what happens in the workplace. My argument is why are you acknowledging the practice yet letting it continue. Why is everyone so scared to stand beside us and say “yes, this is what happens and I will not tolerate it”.

    • katherine at 11:45 am

      Dear Anon, I am grieved to hear your story.
      The short story is I , and many others, cannot afford to let our lives collapse, as there is no one going to give me money or pay my mortgage.
      Also, with years of experience, good and not so good behind me, I know that things sometimes are not what they seem.
      Recently in a workplace I sympathised with a nurse I thought was being bullied. I quietly gave her my support and friendly care. As time went by I witnessed her stealing small hospital supplies and then never giving back to me a small article I lent her. Another nurse, her close friend, in fact had told me she was guilty of the charge the managers had brought against her, also a light fingered event. She’s tough, she survived.
      You must choose your friends carefully and your battles with even greater care.
      I must mention, naivete. It is not a particularly fair or even world, and all this is very disheartening. Some people, colleagues or managers, may feather their own nests by seeming to be on the alert for the deficiencies of nurses, and being merciless in their pursuit.
      So you must be doubly correct and continuously back up your actions in the workplace.
      Don’t give them any opportunity.
      But, until you have got to know the truth of a situation or person, beware of jumping in to naively support or fight a battle. Often, in my experience things are not quite what the victim says they are, but their own conduct may be at least’ partially at fault. One’s own tendency to be empathetic or sympathetic, may cloud the truth. And you have to acknowledge your own mistakes, even tactical errors.
      I have learnt the hard way about misjudgement, and I warn you most urgently to not necessarily believe the one bleating loudest in your ear.
      It is not running away from the problem or letting bullies win, its never so simple.
      Losing everything you have worked for, suffering depression and catastrophe in your personal life , is also not a balanced way of facing adversity. Gaining personal respect in your workplace is the challenge. As I said, be immaculate in your actions, back up your decisions and practise, don’t whine, and calmly stand your ground. Even bullies can’t touch you. If you can’t pull through, don’t whine, leave and go off to a better place. Don’t give them the satisfaction, of another negative conversation about you. Recently a young nurse I know told me in confidence how much she hated that particular workplace, to the extent she was seeing a therapist. I was shocked as she seemed faultless and assertive at all times. She left in her own good time, to a better environment, with hardly a ripple left behind. For someone so young , she was a real pro.
      Beware of the aggrieved one who has a deep and meaningful , confidential with you, who you also confide in, who will then go to the one talked about and report to gain brownie points. Of course they never say what THEY said. You will be in a very fragile place. So as well as being a wary friend, you have to be wary of those that befriend you. Its complicated! Its Life.
      In some very bad incidents, I have moved on, after a bit of a hopeless fight. But the comfort of karma consoles me. Because I have seen some genuinely nasty bullies who hurt numerous people, come to a very sticky end. But I got out of their way, choosing not to be in their noxious vicinity. Abusers like a good victim! Don’t get addicted to conflict! You can be the one who got away!
      Glue yourself back together, anon, don’t let them win, be a good person, move on, survive and even prosper. But always , always, watch your back.

      • Anon at 4:06 pm


        Thank you so much for your feedback. You have helped me with the new perspective and outlook I’m gaining on these situations.

        I meant no disrespect to any of my fantastic support network both work related and personal. I have more understanding of the reasons people leave rather than fight.

        I am a good person, I am gluing myself back together and I will move on. I’m still surviving, I will prosper. Watching my back is now second nature.

        It goes without saying I know to be forever immaculate in my decisions, back myself up and calmly stand my ground. Yes I’ve made mistakes, yes I’ve put my hand up and dealt with the consequences. I’m definitely not perfect.

        I only wish I had the insight I’m gaining now and someone had put it too me so succinctly. I don’t know if I was prepared to listen then yet I’m learning every day.

        Kind regards

  4. Anon at 3:03 pm

    Hi, I understand everything Dawn has experienced. I experienced and still are the worst bullying I could have imagined. I was a Clinical Nurse at a Rural Hospital and I reported an incident that occurred on night duty. I had nil disciplinary procedures and nil complaints against me documented up until the time I reported the incident. I was not working the shift that night but when I came on the next day for evening shift I was handed over by the day staff the events. I had numerous staff complaining nothing was getting done by the Supervisor on Call that night. The incident occurred at around 1.00 AM – 2.00 AM in the night duty shift. There is only 2 staff members on the shift at this rural hospital at night. An Endorsed Enrolled Nurse and an Registered Nurse and nil wards person. No doctors are at the hospital they are on Call at the next closest hospital at all times. Doctors only come 1 -2 times a week for short intervals for outpatient clinic. All assessments are completed by the Registered Nurse in Charge for the shift and then if needed reported to the doctor. This night the Registered Nurse collapsed at the above time in a patient’s room with the EEN present. The EEN somehow got the RN up into a wheelchair and that is where the RN stayed the remainder of the shift. The Supervisor on Call was notified immediately. The staff were told to phone the 2nd Clinical Nurse to come in but there was no answer. The Supervisor then told them that was Ok as long as an RN was on duty in the hospital they were covered. It didn’t matter the RN was in a wheelchair wrapped in a blanket and could barely speak. The Supervisor on Call did not respond herself by replacing the sick RN and nil medical attention was given to the sick Registered Nurse the remainder of the shift. My training is that if someone collapses an ECG and Doctor immediately notified but this was not done. The EEN continued on her own the remainder of the shift until day shift came on. Day staff where horrified to see her in the wheelchair wrapped in a blanket. The 2nd Clinical Nurse did not phone a doctor either but proceeded to count the Drugs and staff noted the sick RN could barely do that in the wheelchair. There are elderly and palliative care patients in the hospital. One was in palliative care that night and received nil Morphine until day shift. To me there was nil Duty of Care completed to the Patients and nil Duty of Care to the sick RN or protocol followed when a person collapses. The sick RN returned to her home and saw her private doctor and had another seizure while in the doctors clinic. The doctor took blood tests and scans. The sick RN had phoned me to report what was happening with her while I was on shift one night. I passed it on to the Supervisor via email. While I was on the phone I encouraged the sick RN to do a incident form but she was against that and said she would talk to the supervisor. An incident form was not completed by either of them while I was still at the hospital. When I reported the incident as numerous staff complained and asked as I was the Clinical Nurse and had knowledge. I also thought it was my duty of care and to follow Code of Conduct. I reported it to High Management in the Health Service as the Supervisor (Acting Director of Nursing) was involved in the incident and did not like me. The Higher management spoke with the Supervisor and revealed my name to the Supervisor. In return I was taken out of my role as Clinical Nurse at the rural hospital on the grounds that all of a sudden there was numerous complaints suddenly put in against me. I was told I was looking at a prison sentence and was a danger to staff and patients. I was devastated as I had nil complaints ever before. Staff had told me of meetings that where held by other staff who backed the Supervisor (worried they didn’t want to loose there jobs) to put in these complaints. There are nil dates on any of the complaints only one and that is after my report I put in. I used all my holiday pay, my long service leave and my superannuation and am looking at loosing my home. I eventually resigned as my decision making due to all of this was never the same. Frightened to make a decision and report incidents with Management due to the repercussions, I had personal abuse on facebook which named the Company and still nothing was done to rectify any of this. During it they told me I had to do courses before any decisions were made if I could return to my job and only if the staff members who put the complaints would allow me to go back to the hospital. I have never been so disgusted in so many people in high places at this company. It is the largest of all nursing facilities in Queensland and they certainly have no rights and wrongs in there job description about degrading and punishing people for doing the right thing. Families of the patients that night have still no idea that this occurred. That their family members had no Registered Nurse in charge of the hospital that night on an EEN who couldn’t perform the pressure area care on her own as most 2 people turns. Nil S8’s given as the RN was not cognitive or in a state to make assessments for the patients. The hospital also has walk in outpatients at any time through the day and night and no record of any patients attending that night. Pregnant mothers and mental health patients can turn up all hours. There was no RN to properly assess any of these patients if this happened. The closest hospital is only a short distance away a doctor could have driven over and diagnosed the sick RN or an Ambulance should have been called to transfer her to the hospital for medical assessment. But neither happened that night. The RN told me she was diagnosed as having seizures that night. I told her she could have died with nil medical treatment. he investigation started and after her interview the sick RN resigned within a week or two. So that was there way out and I was removed from the hospital. The Supervisor who was acting in her roll is now been given the roll as Permanent. How does that work? I am depressed all the time and wonder how these other nurses who complained about me are still working in that hospital and haven’t changed. These nurses who complained were told my name as I had nil protection at first and they were given Whistle Blowers protection immediately so I couldn’t see their names. I wasn’t given whistle blowers protection until months down the track. Even though it wasn’t hard to know who these staff members were. My name is mud due to the complaints and no one is aware of the events that happened that night due to me being told if I broke confidentiality I would be in serious trouble. The town thinks I am the worst person as these staff members that complained were not confidential but nothing was done. I resigned so I could talk about it. It took 2yrs 6 months for me to resign after fighting and fighting with union support. The company eventually dropped the complaints as they had nil grounds after numerous changes in management but it was to late for me I had decided nothing was going to change in that hospital. I feel for the people in the town. If I knew a solicitor that could help me for the damages with the defamation against me I would take action. I am tired of people saying forget about it. I would but that wasn’t the first bad incident in that hospital. I am a mature nurse and it is hard to find work in a small town with them thinking it was all my fault with these complaints. I was called awful names and discriminated against after being bullied by this supervisor which I never took further and when I did this was the result. I am still being told she is still bullying and nothing is done. I know exactly what Dawn is feeling. It would be good if Solicitors stood up for people with these sort of actions. did try but was told because I wasn’t physically injured I had no case. I loose my home and the people who caused all this keep working and have income. How is that right?

    • Karen at 1:05 pm

      Hi there,

      I have been through something similar as a registered nurse. Management was absolutely incompetent.

      Anyway getting to your situation there is a lawyer in Nambour who pushed for the police to further the Daniel Morcombe case. The police had no intention initially of taking things further. I know he also defended 2 nurses who spoke up about a psychiatrist – Dr Phillip Bird who was overdosing patients on psych medications and one of these patients had a crash on the Sunshine coast and killed 2 small children and their grandmother. You may be able to find the case on the internet. Below are his details:

      Peter Boyce | Solicitor | Butler McDermott Lawyers

      If you are still keen to take your matter further consider him. Note I am in no way related or a friend of his. Or even reach out to Toni Hoffman and ask her who helped her.

      We nurses who have been bullied need to share information as to who are the best lawyers and most honest lawyers.

      I was told by a lovely young lady who was a lawyer for about 5 years; that the law firms want to drag out cases so they make as much money as possible, hence this is why we need to find good lawyers to help us.

    • Lydia Davison at 12:02 pm

      Dawn’s story had me in tears while Anon’s story had me close to it as well. What is it with nursing? It is supposed to be a “caring” profession. But when it comes to nurses looking after their fellow colleagues – forget it. Yes there are terrible bullies within nursing and the staff supporting them are no better and give the bullies more power. Bullying? Where do I start? As I was a mature age student, I was firstly bullied by two young nurses who thought it was funny by giving me the most difficult residents to shower and dress. I got to the stage where I would just about vomit in the car on my way to work and ring up sick. As soon as I made that call, I could feel the anxiety leave my body, until the next time. Most of the students were given positions there except me. The DON also threatened me by saying ‘You don’t want to take this further”. How many times did I arrive home in tears. I had a husband with few working hours, 3 children and no job. So I decided to go to Uni and get my Bachelor of Nursing as I believed there were more work opportunities. At 48, I went to University. Again I was bullied on placement. This time it was a NUM. I was on a 2 week stint of nightshift. Most of the nurses on that ward were surprised and stated the normally students didn’t do nights. So I had given my handover in the morning and asked to check the drugs with the RN. After that the NUM bailed me up in the small drug room after the RN had left. The NUM accused me of giving a poor handover and before going home I was to read all their histories and notes and report back to her. Oh I felt sick. After doing as she requested I went to see the co-ordinator. She asked me if I wanted to make a formal complaint. Of course, I said no. I had lost all my confidence, self esteem and enthusiasm. I didn’t have the guts as I knew it would take some fighting and besides, I only had a few weeks left of my placement and I just wanted to pass.This is what happens with bullies. They know you won’t fight back! I think back to that now, and I should have kicked her in the guts. How tough she must have thought she was by ambushing a student in the drug room? I hope karma finds her soon. I was transferred to another ward and finished my placement.The next hard time for me was at another workplace where I worked permanent nights in aged care. I hurt my back by a bariatric patient who had pulled against me while I held her toward me so the other nurse could change her sheet in bed. I fought that and got a small payment but that didn’t pay for the pain, sleeplessness and frustation. I did all the rehab and returned to work. Then I had a heart attack at home. I was taken to Melbourne via ambulance and while in hospital there, I was given 2 stents. I was lucky as my coronary artery was 99% occluded according to the cardiac specialist. I did the cardiac rehab and went back to work. Afterwards, I hurt my back again with an aged resident who was known to become physically violent and was quite demented. My application with Workcover was rejected. LIke you, ANON, I used all my sick pay and my Long Service Leave until I had nothing left. I was in touch with a solicitor with the ANF. Next the DON held a meeting with me, the CEO being present and I with the ANF rep. The Don stated she was terminating my employment. Her excuse was that she “COuldnt provide a safe environment for me” . I replied “that means u can’t provide a safe environment for any of your staff”. She couldn’t look at me and didn’t answer. The CEO just scribbled in his notepad. I guesses he was her “yes man”. Pft. I didn’t care that I may embarrass myself with my next statement. But I looked toward the CEO and said, how would you like to be without money? I can’t pay my mortgage let alone other bills and I need new bras and undies.” No, they looked down and couldn’t look at me. As the DON had said I was terminated. I rang the solicitor soon after. He said that there was nothing he could do as she had reacted within the guidelines. In my mental state, I had a vision of me with a placard outside my workplace stating I was terminated, but then I thought they would get the police to remove me. I was so angry, sad and lost. I worked so hard to get my degree. I had also divorced my husband and moved house 3 times. At one stage I had to ask my elderly mother if she could help pay my rent as I was struggling. They were hard times. I now sit at home, not working. I have developed OCD as I now have become a hoarder, I am usually afraid to go to social gatherings as i don’t want to leave my home. I have become socially isolated, still have anxiety and depression and I don’t have a complete 100% certificate from my GP as there are restrictions on lifting and bending. I have been for 3 interviews at different hospitals and they have all said come back when u have 100% fitness. What happens to all the “broken” nurses? Do they throw us in a room like broken Barbie dolls and shut the door? That’s how I feel.

  5. Marie at 11:33 am

    Very interesting reading other people’s comments. Some very intelligent comments however bullying is soul destroying, particularly when you are in a job you love or had loved. Sometimes it is not easy to get out of the situation and still have the same financial security. At times nursing and HR managers are incompetent and collude. It amazes me at times they do not look for real evidence, quite often they are more interested in hearsay and falsifying documentation. Some (not all) managers have raced up the ranks without having the adequate experience or even common sense. I feel managers like that should be reported to the board of the hospital to ensure patient safety. I think the nurses union takes our money under false pretences and do not tell us all our rights because lets face it quite often the union organisers are aligned with one organisation and they want to keep coming back in to getting their own practical experience. I think if we have an issue we need to take it to the board where their most likely are doctors who will see the real issue. Patient safety is important to all of us.

    HR should also be telling managers they are to be role models and also live by the values set out by the hospital. These values need to be followed by everyone.

    Also too, what concerned me was/is the rigging of jobs promotions and employment. Nursing jobs do not always go to the best staff at all. Quite often it is about popularity games etc.

    HR should be very concerned about this and start cracking down because it could affect their own safety one day if they are an inpatient.

    Lastly, it always amazes me how nurses who have done something criminal are not fired always yet bullied staff members are harassed to the point of where they have to leave one way or the other. HR should be demanding to know about any criminal issues such as assaults on patients, stealing, lying about credentialing etc. If management starts to crack down on bad apples then there will be less bullying. Quite often bullies are deflecting from their own incompetencies and insecurities.

    I am a great believer in doing my utmost to find solutions to problems and I wish more people would try to be solution orientated. I empathise anyone who has been bullied if it was unfair, however we need to put on our thinking caps to improve the situation.

  6. Glynis Anderson at 8:33 am

    I am going through this very thing atm. I feel isolated socially due to the demographic in which I live. Because I am studying further, and am gaining more knowledge, its is seen as a threat instead of an asset to any health business. I have been nursing for 32 years and have encountered many situations involving negative and toxic behaviour especially from management and other RN’s. At the moment, because I am now in my fifties, a younger nurse is using processes for her own means to score brownie points with management.

    I now have depression/anxiety because I have saved a lot of patient’s lives and think I do a great job, as I always have, but after being “ratted out” by this collegue, I feel betrayed, and its conflicting with how I feel about trusting this person ever again. Now this new threat from University trained nurses using systems against senior experienced nurses, seems to be escalating and I would reinterate that I do not have anything against University training as I myself have a number of post graduate certificates from University, but its more of a behavioural issues I find. You can’t come out of university training and say in an arrogant way, ” I now know everything:. Its simply a place to start and build on experience from that point on. I myself continue to build on my knowledge base, as well as experience, and I have never been that arrogant to imply that I know everything.

    I am now a bit burned by this recent experience and am considering other options to make peace in my life just know. Sorry to rant on.

    • Marie at 12:05 am

      You are not ranting Glynis and neither are the other people that have been through a lot. It is very hard to summarise what you have been through and how you feel in a couple of sentences. Even though I went through university I respected the knowledge of the hospital trained nurses, providing they were not putting me down to build their own self esteem. I do agree that a number of the university educated nurses want to race up the ranks before they are really ready to. I wish the universities would stipulate a period of time before people could go back and do further studies, because practical experience is so important. We need good leaders who understand the clinical side well and ensure the best staff are kept on – people who are intelligent who can improve care and people who are not just interested in getting a pay packet but truly care about patients. I use to do office work, and the managers honestly were so much better when I worked in an office. My partner who was in the armed forces who did managerial courses said to me one day that managers should delve, delve, delve until they get down to the bottom of issues, which I agree with.

      I would also like to see managers asking staff to put their complaints against other staff members in writing on statutory declarations, because I think it would make people think twice before potentially lying. I also think managers should be saying that they must tell the truth without any deliberate omissions.

      If hospitals want to keep the best nurses Human Resources also needs to say if they find anybody encouraging fabrication or mobbing they will be out the door. Bullying is illegal and people suicide because of bullying at times. It can damage people’s health and have severe financial consequences too, such as people losing the roof over their heads.

      I would also like to see AHPRA set up a area to deal with complaints regarding bullying whereby both nurses and community members on the board hear each case because bullying impacts on patient safety at times. This way if managers are bullying too, it will all come out in the wash if there are community members listening in too, about each bullying incident were they are involved and appropriate conditions or penalties of one sort or another can be made even if it is a group of managers colluding. Also lets face it nurses are still people and as we agree to saying we will do no harm to patients, maybe what the board should consider in the standards is that we nurses do no harm to our colleagues either.

      I feel really strongly about this issue. That is why I have thought deeply about this issue and can understand why people who are in the situation don’t have the time or energy to focus on solutions, because they are trying to do their best in difficult situations.

  7. Joanie at 4:09 am


    I am/was a new grad, I quit my program a month before I left because of clique bullies. What I do know is they dont have a type, young/old/new.. once your a target you have no choice but to either give in or report the behaviour. Obviously alot more give in.. it is out of control in a sector where time and effort wasted on bad behaviour is inexcusable.

    • Marie at 11:52 pm

      The problem is quite often if you speak up about bullying to managers they think everything is a numbers game. They worry about the clique turning on them too, so it is easier to get rid of a good worker for instance, compared to a group of nasty people. The problem with this though, is the culture spirals downwards and it jeopardises patient’s safety. Ironically, the nurse managers and HR need to step up quite often and say you need to provide evidence to each party. Not hearsay, but evidence. The managers also need to be in at handovers and on the floor to watch the dynamics amongst the staff. Usually it is the lazier staff that stir up trouble for the more conscientious staff and if the managers listen carefully to handover they should be able to figure out who is doing the work. I have listened to a number of handovers were certain staff never mention anything out of the ordinary, even over a year or more. At times patient’s obs are out of their normal range etc and things like this should be brought up at handover. Some staff never notice anything, which is really concerning in relation to their patients. Managers and HR need to delve and do things properly and ethically – they need to realise that if the culture keeps going downwards their is a risk it will one day jeopardise their safety or the safety of someone they love or truly like, or even someone above them work-wise. I had a very switched on DON who knew who was friendly with who outside of work, so she knew which people would gang up against others. I personally would like to see managers asking more questions about people character even before hiring them. To be a good professional team member you need more than to be academically good or the life and soul of the party, you actually need to genuinely care about people, not just your patients but other people too including your work colleagues.

      Also if any educator does a biased assessment about anyone’s work when assessing them, then HR should be contacted and the initial brief from the manager should be looked at, and HR should insist on these briefs being in writing.

      The union where I reside only favours certain groups within nursing and you won’t necessarily get good representation/help even if you pay your dues. It is shameful.

      HR also needs to ensure everyone knows about job promotions and if a manager too, is favouring certain staff then they need to be pulled up about it and given a warning letter. I know if I was a HR manager I would be firm with the bullies and would not hesitate to give them warning letters or send them on their way. I know too, I would be good at picking out the liars too.

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