Thompson Rivers University

Nursing research looks to stop bullying before it starts

  Posted on: May 10, 2016

Florriann Fehr and Michelle Seibel in front of their anti-bullying poster.

The field of nursing exemplifies compassion and empathy, but workplace bullying is a serious issue affecting the profession. School of Nursing faculty Michelle Seibel and Florriann Fehr are using innovative techniques to prevent bullying at its roots.

The pair has been conducting research on a role-playing technique called Cognitive Rehearsal Training (CRT) which provides undergraduate nursing students with tools to address workplace bullying, and delivers valuable data for curriculum development within schools of nursing.

“Violence in many forms is accepted within nursing and the dynamics of bullying that students experience is multi-faceted,” said Fehr. “Stressful working conditions can be a deal-breaker within the profession—faculty must not accept this as the status quo in academia or healthcare. We have to lead by example and be champions.”

Nursing has a long history of bullying within the workplace which can have negative impacts on confidence. A lack of confidence has been reported to result in absenteeism, depression, thoughts of quitting school, and withdrawal from school-related responsibilities.

“People from all disciplines can relate to this topic, most people have experienced this on some level, it’s very practical,” said Seibel.

The pair recently published an article concluding that confidence levels influence how students address bullying and with adequate preparation through CRT, the increased confidence to address bullying will help this vulnerable population.

“We present students with a scenario and then have them apply tactics based in psychology that teach them to stop, reflect and respond rather than react,” said Seibel.

Their findings suggest that students graduating from a nursing program with conflict resolution skills and a zero tolerance for bullying will feel more confident and prepared to manage the power dynamics that exist in the workplace.

“When bullying is present, confidence is low and so is competence,” said Fehr. “We are building confidence. Our number one concern as nurses has to be the safety of our patients.”

They have applied for a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to continue with their research, which they have already been presenting nationally.

“Ultimately we would like to see this integrated into the curriculum,” said Seibel.