Nurses mistreated at work need more support, suggests research

A study released today suggests that nurses need more help in dealing with disrespectful behaviour from colleagues to maintain patient care.

This new research (1), led by led by Dr Roberta Fida from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and published in the journal Health Care Management Review argues that in order to retain high-quality nurses it is important to understand what factors might protect them from the negative effects of workplace mistreatment.

The results of the research show that self-efficacy - the belief in one's capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome - does have a protective role. The more nurses believed in their capability to cope with stressful interpersonal situations at work, the less they perceived incivility from co-workers and supervisors.

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

Dr Fida, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UEA's Norwich Business School, said: "These results are encouraging because self-efficacy is something that can be supported and promoted by proactive hospital management. Every effort must be made to ensure that incivility is not tolerated and to create working conditions that prevent subsequent burnout to ensure both employee and organisational health.

"Developing strategies to strengthen nurses' ability to deal with negative behaviour from different sources is also critical to ensuring high-quality patient care, while training and retaining highly qualified nurses is vital for addressing the supply and demand imbalance facing the profession."

Incivility - defined as rude and discourteous comments and actions, and a general lack of concern for others - towards nurses can come from colleagues, managers or patients and remains a widespread issue , previously been linked to nurse burnout and, in turn, to poor mental health and staff leaving their jobs.

This new study, which involved 596 registered nurses in Canada, was conducted with Dr Heather Laschinger from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and investigated whether individuals' beliefs about their ability to deal with workplace-specific stressful events can protect nurses from these negative effects. It is part of a wider research project on nursing work environments led by Dr Laschinger.

This research comes at a time when many countries are facing nursing shortages which are expected to worsen as the workforce and population ages. The researchers recommend providing nurses with opportunities to build their coping strategies for managing job demands and difficult personal interactions.


1. 'The Protective Role of Self-Efficacy against Workplace Incivility and Burnout in Nursing: A Time-lagged Study', Roberta Fida, Heather Laschinger and Michael Leiter, is published in Health Care Management Review.


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