Lateral violence is pervasive throughout all levels of nursing. Workplace bullying and lateral violence are interchangeable terms to describe nurse to nurse bullying. The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines lateral violence as, “acts that occur between colleagues.” Similarly, the ANA describes bullying as, “acts perpetrated by one in a higher level of authority and occur over time.” There are many reports of how lateral violence effects the individual from an emotional and psychological standpoint. The occurrence of increased staff turnover resulting from workplace bullying lessens the productivity of a healthcare organization. Armed with this information, we as healthcare providers should recognize events of lateral violence must end in order to promote a professional nursing atmosphere of mutual respect and professional growth.  

One may ask, how we can cultivate a fair and just nursing culture within the walls of our institution. Unfortunately, there are no clear – cut solutions. However, there are several methods that have helped individuals and organizations alike to promote healing after an incident and/or prevent subsequent occurrences of lateral violence. Conflict resolution techniques may help the bullying perpetrator to recognize their behavior. Role playing and open communication are conflict resolution techniques most often used in the professional setting.

When two individuals are communicating openly they have created an open dialogue for mutual exchanges of ideas and perceptions. Open communication may be unsuccessful if trust is not apparent from both parties. Role-playing takes place between two or more people, who act out roles to explore a particular scenario. The bullying perpetrator and victim may act out an alleged incident of lateral violence. The hope is the perpetrator would gain a sense of clarity and empathy by placing themselves in the role of victim.  While using conflict resolution techniques to solve a problem remember to keep an open mind and discuss solutions respectfully when conflict arises. It is ok to disagree; yet it is important to maintain a spirit of cordial relations amongst colleagues who have offended you. Retaining a positive attitude after a devastating encounter with an associate will improve your self – esteem and is the first step to cultivating a fair and just nursing culture.

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