Emotions and feelings evoked in nursing students exposed to bullying behaviors in clinical settings

Dawna E. Rutherford, Carolyn R. Smith, Scott Bresler, Gordon L. Gillespie


Background and objective: Though not fully integrated into the profession, student nurses have been exposed to and experienced bullying behaviors with limited skills to mitigate the effects of the behaviors. This qualitative study analyzed the emotions evoked due to exposure to bullying behaviors. Desired to address the question: “How do student nurses feel when they are the recipient of bullying-type behaviors?”

Methods: DESIGN: Qualitative descriptive design. SETTING: A nursing college at an urban university in the Midwestern United States; PARTICIPANTS: Matriculated students enrolled in a pre-licensure nursing program. METHODS: As part of a larger mixed informed pilot study, each participant was assigned to either the control or intervention group. Participants in the intervention group received an educational intervention focused on bullying two weeks prior to a scheduled clinical simulation. Participants in both groups each completed an individual clinical simulation during which they were exposed to bullying-type behaviors meant to replicate behaviors they may encounter in actual clinical settings. All participants were informed of their right to disenroll from the study at any point. For the health and safety of participants, individuals were provided with safeguards during the study as well as upon conclusion of their participation. Immediately following the simulation, participants completed an individual debrief interview during which they were asked to describe how the simulation made them feel. Responses were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using a descriptive qualitative to generate thematic results.

Results: The three major themes developed included Past Bullying-like Behavior, Feelings Experienced during Simulation, and Perceptions of the Simulation. Participants reported experiencing negative emotions due to the bullying behavior exposure despite receiving an educational intervention. Harmful emotions, such as sadness, led participants to question their ability to perform simple tasks. Student nurses possess the skills and knowledge to perform routine tasks; however, when bullying behaviors target nursing students, the negative behaviors have the potential to adversely affect the whole student.

Conclusions: Further research is warranted to identify programs to aid students in overcoming the negative bullying behaviors in the clinical setting.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v10n11p54

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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