Siobahn – Alberta
6 years ago I started a new job, which was a new clinical role to this particular clinic. Day one I was told by the two Nurses that “we can’t talk to you because you are management (I was an Advanced Practice Nurse), and that they had assigned me a desk and computer on the 6th floor, yet I was a clinician working on the first floor. I was also told that the Nurse that was not present that day would probably glom on to me because I had a degree, and they called her “princess”. I was appalled, but I thought that with time they would be less anxious about working with an APN. When I did meet the BSc.N. Nurse who had been absent that day, she was delightful, welcoming, professional and a veritable expert in her field having traveled the world to present papers and do training for other Nurses and Physicians in our area of expertise. She was obviously bullied by them, but had a lot of seniority. And I still had no clue what workplace bullying was until I researched it after my own experience.
I spent a year trying to find my foothold. My clinical practice was blocked, patient appointments cancelled, my role was diminished. And no one, even the people in charge of the clinic would speak directly to me. I’d hear about changes to my practice that were made without my input. I opened my house for a Christmas get together, and I overheard one of the Physicians say “what is she doing that for”? When the toaster oven died, I brought in a toaster I had never used to replace it until a new toaster oven was purchased. I overheard a secretary say “what did she do that for”? During that year my Dad was dying of cancer, and on occasion I’d take a long weekend and vacation days to make the 4 hour flight back home to see my parents. I never took time I was not entitled to. I frequently wondered why I was working there as they would not let me work to scope. In time I found they were leaving me charts to call patients about prescriptions, which was definitely their job. They moved the phone to my desk so I would take all the day to day inquiries. They continued to be very critical of the other Nurse, but I never said a peep. (bystander) Big mistake. In February of 2010 my Dad died, leaving my Mom who had early Alzheimer’s to struggle with the reality. When I got back to work I asked for a few days to do catch up, and that seemed to set off an tsunami of revenge. I was accused of actions that never occured. I was accused of failing a course I was taking which was totally false, I was excelling…and I never disclosed my academic activities, and they knew nothing of it. I was told I was not the ANP they were hoping for, yet never once did they allow me to belong, engage me, or talk to me. The two Nurses had turned the office against me, and so fueled the physician managers that they came and spewed their vitriol and falsehoods on me. I had no idea that I was being bullied behind my back. The odd quirky behaviors that I had wondered about, were in fact part of a mobbing scheme. When I was dehumanized and humiliated by the Doctors, they came with accusations, not inquiry. I was not asked. I was told who I was by people who had NO IDEA who I was and what I was capable of…they had never given me the chance to do what I was hired for. When one of the Doctors was done decimating me, I was weeping uncontrollably and she left me in an exam room, alone, patting me on the shoulder as she left. I was there for over an hour sobbing. The whole office knew what had happened. I wanted to take cold water and regain some composure, but all the exam room had was hot water. I took alcohol swabs and tried to reduce the redness from my face. After an hour I skulked from the room into the adjacent office that I shared with the other three Nurses. Not a word was said. The next day an email was sent widely around the office telling everyone including the cleaning lady that there were going to be changes in my schedule, and what I was going to be doing, and that I was going to be under the supervision of the two bully Nurses, even though I was an APN with more education and experience than they had. There was no consultation with me. I tried to contact my Nursing Manager who did not work in our building, and did very little in the way of leadership, and she tarried. She had a series of excuses for not meeting. As the weeks went on, I was increasingly anxious and dehumanized. When I finally made an appointment with my Nursing Manager, I waited 45 minutes while she chatted it up with a colleague in her office. That was when I finally broke down. I left and went straight to my Physician. I was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and PTSD. While I was off work, people were looking at my facebook page and accusing me of being unprofessional etc etc. I finally unfriended everyone, except the one person I thought I could trust. That’s when I found out she was printing off my facebook pages and circulating them to the Managers and Physicians. Because I had been out for coffee with my husband, and tried to put on a brave face, I was considered unprofessional. HR was aware of the toxic, triangulating environment for ten years, and had the gall to ask me why I didn’t do something about it? I persisted in trying to get the employer to be accountable to their mission vision and values, even though I was suffering. I tried every which way to get them to be open and honest about what happened and acknowledge the great harm done to me. It never happened. The more I sought transparency, the more I was vilified. But, I just couldn’t understand how a health care organization with such well written and ethical policies would behave unethically. After 6 years, I finally understand. They still don’t want to admit it. Organizations like this have deep pockets for Lawyers and legal defense. They don’t care about the soul of hard working individuals. Their sole objective is to look good, and win. Period.
I still suffer greatly from the consequences of workplace bullying. I’m a grandmother who worked hard to get educated, and I feel like I have had my heart ripped out. My advice to people in this predicament is to start looking for another job as soon as you see the signs. Switch as soon as you can. This mobbing behavior is not incidental, it is ingrained. Jump ship and save yourself. As my therapist has reminded me, toxicity is a trickle down effect in organizations…its not trickle up. Run for your life.