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Nursing Research and Practice
Volume 2012, Article ID 243210, 10 pages
Research Article

Making Things Right: Nurses' Experiences with Workplace Bullying—A Grounded Theory

1Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Columbia University, 2970 Broadway, MC 4122, 603 Lewisohn Hall, New York, NY 10027, USA
2William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA
3School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of South Australia, City East Campus, GPO Box 2471, Centenary Building, Level 6, Room 54, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
4NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU College of Nursing, 560 First Avenue, TCH-183, New York, NY 10016, USA

Received 15 December 2011; Accepted 15 February 2012

Academic Editor: Christine Pontus

Copyright © 2012 Donna A. Gaffney et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


While bullying in the healthcare workplace has been recognized internationally, there is still a culture of silence in many institutions in the United States, perpetuating underreporting and insufficient and unproven interventions. The deliberate, repetitive, and aggressive behaviors of bullying can cause psychological and/or physical harm among professionals, disrupt nursing care, and threaten patient safety and quality outcomes. Much of the literature focuses on categories of bullying behaviors and nurse responses. This qualitative study reports on the experiences of nurses confronting workplace bullying. We collected data from the narratives of 99 nurses who completed an open-ended question embedded in an online survey in 2007. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data and shape a theory of how nurses make things right when confronted with bullying. In a four-step process, nurses place bullying in context, assess the situation, take action, and judge the outcomes of their actions. While many nurses do engage in a number of effective yet untested strategies, two additional concerns remain: inadequate support among nursing colleagues and silence and inaction by nurse administrators. Qualitative inquiry has the potential to guide researchers to a greater understanding of the complexities of bullying in the workplace.