Nurses are struggling with cyberbullying by patients and families, a new study has found.
Massey University PhD graduate Dr Natalia D’Souza wrote her thesis on workplace cyberbullying and found that nurses are not only bullied by other staff, but also by patients and their families.
Dr D’Souza says patient care responsibilities make it difficult for nurses to block communication if they are being bullied by electronic channels.
“I was told about one case where a nurse was being bullied by a patient’s mother, and she used her son to gain access.
“She would call to ask for help for her son, but then start abusing the nurse, so the nurse was hesitant to block the calls in case it was a genuine emergency.”
Many nurses were also concerned about how being cyberbullied on social media would affect their professional reputation.
“Sometimes their personal contact details have been posted online, or false allegations made to the Nursing Council.
“This can produce a lot of anxiety as they have no control over who might see it.”
“Nurses in this situation worry not only about their job and their own wellbeing, but also about the effect on their families should they see the content,” Dr D’Souza said.
She recommends that all workplaces, not only the nursing profession, include cyberbullying in workplace bullying and harassment policies.
“Cyberbullying needs to be acknowledged as a problem first, then supporting mechanisms need to be implemented to encourage people to report.”
Dr D’Souza said that organisations should ensure victims can access support from Netsafe, including working to get content removed.