Has anyone ever been mean to you?

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While recently speaking at a nursing conference, the speaker before me was trying to make the point that nurses don’t support each other. One more sweeping generalization to put a negative thought in everyone’s head and start off the conference on the right note! She asked for a show of hands asking, “Who has ever had someone be mean to them in the workplace?” About 1/3 of the audience raised their hands and the speaker acted as though she’d obvioulsy made her point. I almost wanted to laugh – ‘mean to them?’ I felt like I was back in kindergarten with that phrase. Who has lived to 10 years of age and not had someone be ‘mean’ to them? 


I often speak and write on the subject of how nurses treat one another since it frequently comes up in nursing circles. I certainly don’t deny that the phenomenon of horizontal violence exists in high stress work areas, especially in those settings where nurses are not supported and valued by management and administration. But I have always been able to see, and choose to focus on, all the ways that the vast majority of nurses are amazing to one another whether a new grad or otherwise. I know, after 35 years in the profession, that most nurses, including myself, consider it a privilege, a joy, and part of being professional to support and nurture one another. 


Rather than asking, “Has anyone ever been mean to you,” a more productive, positive and proactive question would be “How do you contribute to the greater good every day in your workplace?” or “How can you support and nurture yourself and thereby those around you?”  (References: Foster Horizontal Respect and Do Nurses Really Eat Their Young?)


How would you answer those last two questions?

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