Lateral Violence

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The Negative Effects of “Nurses Eating their Young” and how to stop them Kenton David Peacock, RN
Chipola College BSN Program
Jonna Bradley, ARNP, Instructor

The Nursing profession is not one that one would expect to be riddled with acts of violence among colleagues. A common saying among new nurses relating to more seasoned nurses is that “Nurses eat their young”. Two of the reasons that were cited as factors in lateral violence, according to a journal article in Virginia Nurses Today, are low self-esteem and lack of respect for others (Brothers, Condon, Cross, Ganske, & Lewis, 2011). These traits are not traits that one would expect to be a major player in the personality of such a caring profession. The presence of lateral violence (LV) in the workplace has a negative effect on healthcare delivery. Oddly, the introduction that a potential nurse will have to LV in the workplace can actually begin within the Nursing school setting. There are those that question whether that the origin of LV is within the educational institutions that train nurses and their faculty (Beasley, 2010). Faculty incivility, in which incivility is a term that was coined for lateral violence, creates a destructive culture that denies students the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop in a profession that is known for its compassion (Beasley, 2010). Lateral violence can be significantly reduced or eliminated when the behavior is recognized, acknowledged, and appropriately and consistently addressed at both the individual and organizational level (Harley, n.d.). The implementation of training regarding the incidence of LV and its’ consequences is a means to improve the nursing work environment, patient care outcomes, and nurse retention – elements negatively affected by LV in the workplace (Embree & White, 2010). There are many negative results from LV related to the nursing work environment. The direct result is the level of stress that those that are involved, especially on the receiving end of LV, are plagued with within the workplace. This directly results in an increased use of sick leave once the physical symptoms of the increased stress have their toll on the nurse’s body. (Harter & Moody, 2010) Nursing retention is also a big problem, considering it is estimated that 60 percent of nurses leave their first position as a nurse due to some form of lateral violence (Harter & Moody, 2010). The average turnover rate is 8.4 percent but increases to 27.1 percent when it comes to first-year nurses. When nurses leave, then the nurses that remain have a harder work-load and the end measure is a decrease in the care of the patient. The point of a nursing environment is the care of the patient and LV directly can affect this aspect of nursing. In a study to develop preventive intervention strategies, it was found that many new graduates experienced LV across all clinical settings. The results of the study of, with a response rate of 47 percent and 551 completed questionnaires, showed a increased rate of absenteeism, a high number of nurses considering leaving the field, and scores on the Impact of Event Scale (a psychological tool to evaluate impact of events in ones’ life or level of distress) indicated a serious impact of interpersonal conflict. As a result of the experience LV, several nurses mentioned that the events were detrimental to their confidence level and the self esteem (Mckenna, Smith, Poole, & Coverdale, 2003). It is of best practice to refrain from ignoring the behaviors that accompany those that respond to the work environment by acts of LV. Many nursing environments do not have on job educational opportunity regarding LV in the workplace and it often goes ignored by the upper-echelon of administration within an institution. Employers and Nurse Leaders should ensure that supportive services are available. Primary prevention begins with education and training of staff. According to the findings from...
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