Nurses need coping strategies to deal with rudeness from colleagues

A study has shown that nurses can better cope with rude remarks from colleagues if they believe in their own ability to cope with difficult relationships
Bullying behaviour

A study has shown that nurses can better cope with rude remarks from colleagues if they believe in their own ability to cope with difficult relationships

Nurses need more training and support to help them cope with difficult colleagues who make rude remarks, a study has found.

Bullying behaviour
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New research by the University of East Anglia and Canadian institutions investigated how nurses manage disrespectful behaviour from colleagues, and if this can lead to burnout and mental health issues. 

The 2015 NHS staff survey in England showed that one quarter of nurses experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues in the previous year. 

Less than half (39%) reported good communication between senior management and staff. 


The University of East Anglia study used a scale which measures nurses’ self-efficacy – a belief in their ability to cope with hostile working relationships and incivility.

Incivility can include nurses being ignored or excluded, rude comments or people behaving without consideration for someone’s feelings, according to lead author Roberta Fida, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at the University of East Anglia. 

The study, published in Health Care Management Review, involved 596 registered nurses in Canada working in direct patient care.

The nurses were asked to complete a survey which recorded their levels of self-efficacy, and perception and experience of workplace incivility from colleagues, supervisors and physicians.

Experiences of burnout, mental health and their intention to leave their job were also recorded and the survey was repeated a year later.

Study findings

The researchers found that nurses with higher levels of self-efficacy perceived significantly lower levels of incivility from colleagues and supervisors. 

Nurses with higher levels of self-efficacy also experienced lower levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism a year after they were first surveyed and had fewer mental health issues.

However, self-efficacy was not significantly related to later intentions to leave the job.

Coping strategies

The study recommends that nurses have opportunities to build their coping strategies to deal with difficult personal relationships.

This could include providing them with role models, such as colleagues and supervisors, who are able to deal with stressful situations. 

Meaningful verbal encouragement from managers and co-workers is also recommended.

Professor Fida said: 'Nurses’ confidence in their ability to handle incivility from team members is a crucial factor in maintaining a unified work group necessary for high-quality patient care.

'Confidence in their ability to deal with incivility from supervisors is also important in this respect. If managers are dismissive of concerns or ideas from frontline co-workers, patient care is threatened.'