Workplace Incivility and Healthful Environments in Nursing Profession

Workplace incivility in the nursing profession is a significant issue that contributes to stress, burnout, and turnover. According to the review provided by Mikaelian and Stanley (2016), external factors surrounding care, contribute to nursing burnout more than actual patient care. The examples of incivility include workplace bullying, rudeness, making unfounded accusations, gossiping, the use of demeaning language, and excluding coworkers or team members. Considering the problem of nurse understaffing, it is vital to address workplace incivility by promoting healthful work environments. The present paper offers an overview and analysis of a case of workplace incivility and discusses practices, which could have prevented the situation.

Situation Synopsis and Outcomes

Currently, I am working in SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, which is known for an exceptional patient care experience that promotes healing and recovery. The mission of the hospital is to provide high-quality patient care with a particular emphasis on a compassionate environment for patients. However, the environment among employees is not always healthful because of rare cases of workplace incivility.

One of the most notable cases was the situation with one of our interns, who was bullied for questioning the current practices in the hospital. Ann (the name is replaced for privacy concerns) was a student with high achievements fascinated by the idea of evidence-based practice (EBP). However, when she started working, she found inconstancy between actual practices and recommendations and guidelines. Therefore, she felt it was her duty to report the matter to the authorities.

After doing so, she was unofficially excluded from the community, which meant that people stopped talking to her and helping her with her patients. Moreover, other nurses and leaders started gossiping and discussing Ann in a rude manner.

Even though I was quite an experienced nurse at that time, I was unaware of how to react to the situation. Such behavior from my colleagues was uncommon, and it was the first time I faced the problem of workplace incivility in practice. I felt confused and frightened by the situation since it made me realize that I could become an object of workplace incivility as well. Therefore, my only reaction was avoidance, meaning that I tried not to participate in the behavior; at the same time, I did not try to resist it to avoid problems.

As I feel, many of my coworkers used a similar strategy in the situation, which led to adverse consequences. After a month of internship, Ann left the hospital, and it remained unknown if she continued her career as a nurse. Moreover, some of the patient suffered because nobody helped Ann with her duties, and she was not able to cope with stress. In short, the case had a considerable impact on the workplace environment and the quality of care.


Negative Impact of Workplace Incivility

As can be seen from the provided example, incivility negatively affects the staff, the patients, the organization, and the nursing profession in general. First, my colleagues became less trustful to each other, which negatively impacted the efficiency of professional and personal communication. Additionally, according to Mikaelian and Stanley (2016), Ann could have experienced “distress, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disturbance, physical illness, reduced work performance, loss of self-esteem, … depression, and thoughts of suicide” (p. 963).

Second, patients began to complain about the decreased quality of care provided by Ann, which is an example of how workplace incivility affects patients. Third, the reduced level of care and dysfunctional workplace environment could have damaged the reputation of the hospital, which is confirmed by Mikaelian and Stanley (2016). Finally, such stories appearing in social media may influence students to decide against becoming a nurse and turn to another profession, which contributes to staff shortage. Therefore, workplace incivility is a significant problem that should be addressed systematically at all levels.

Prevention Strategies

The strategies for the prevention of incivility and promotion of healthful work environments are widely discussed in the current research literature. For instance, Abdollahzadeh, Asghari, Ebrahimi, Rahmani, and Vahidi (2017) state that the matter can be addressed at the personal, organizational, and public service levels. First, attending to one’s duties, improving knowledge and skills, and learning effective communication is something every nurse can do to improve the situation (Abdollahzadeh et al., 2017). Second, at the organizational level, decreasing the workload, providing emotional support, decreasing doctor-related problems, and facilitating hospitalization processes are viable strategies for reducing incivility (Abdollahzadeh et al., 2017).

Finally, current medical knowledge and views towards nurses should be improved to decrease workplace bullying (Abdollahzadeh et al., 2017). While all the described strategies seem relevant, they are inapplicable in the situation with Ann. Therefore, I support the idea promoted by Mikaelian and Stanley (2016), which is that senior employees and nurse leaders have the most impact on the situation, and they should encourage trustful relationships. At the same time, administrative staff should employ the policy of zero tolerance to workplace incivility.


Workplace incivility is a considerable bother for nurses, administrative staff, and the US healthcare system in general. The problem has a negative impact on hospital staff, patient outcomes, organization, and nursing profession in general, which is confirmed by the case described in the present paper and recent research. The matter should be addressed at the individual, institutional, and public policy levels using the latest evidence to improve the quality of care.


Abdollahzadeh, F., Asghari, E., Ebrahimi, H., Rahmani, A., & Vahidi, M. (2017). How to prevent workplace incivility?: Nurses’ perspective. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 22(2), 157-163.

Mikaelian, B., & Stanley, D. (2016). Incivility in nursing: from roots to repair. Journal of Nursing Management, 24(7), 962–969. Web.