Penn State health educator and nurse practitioner Cheryl Dellasega has just published When Nurses Hurt Nurses: Recognizing and Overcoming the Cycle of Bullying (2011). It’s an informed, insightful, and timely examination of bullying, aggression, and incivility between nurses. A few observations:
The strength of the book lies in its consideration of interpersonal dynamics. Dellasega builds her commentary on the core concept of relational aggression (“RA”) — largely covert aggression or bullying that damages relationships — which has framed her previous writings as well. “Bullying” appears to be the catchphrase to nab buyers and readers, but she employs the more clinical RA throughout the book.
Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder
In addition, she invokes a lesser-known term, “Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder” (PTED), to describe the impact of RA and bullying on nurses. I have a feeling it will resonate with bullying targets far beyond the nursing profession.
My main quarrel with the book is that it would have benefited from a closer look at the often-interrelated roles — constructive and detrimental — played by institutional stakeholders, such as human resources offices, nurses’ unions and professional associations, and legal and dispute resolution systems. These institutional players reflect, shape, and respond to bullying-type behaviors.
Dellasega provides thorough bibliographic information, and those who seek research materials on bullying and related behaviors toward nurses can thank her for having done much of the work. She also lists helpful sources on gendered aspects of interpersonal communications. However, I was surprised that she does not reference some of the abundant, valuable general research and commentary on workplace bullying.
When it comes to workplace bullying, specific vocational and professional settings make a difference. Dellasega has leveraged her knowledge of the nursing profession to write a useful book that speaks of that understanding.