Online abuse, complete with false sexual allegations, is hitting nurses as cyberbullying in the profession is dubbed the “new nursing phenomenon”.
Natalia D’Souza from Massey University’s School of Management has done a thesis into the issue, pointing out that cyberbullying from clients, patients, relatives, and students was happening on top of traditional workplace bullying.
“It is following them home – it is with them 24-7,” she said.
For her thesis, D’Souza talked to eight nurses who had experienced cyberbullying.
The small number was so she could look in-depth at each case.
Of those, three had faced it from outside their organisation – from the likes of disgruntled former patients, their relatives, or students.
“I would say it is quite prevalent [in the wider nursing community] and likely to increase as well,” D’Souza said. “Particularly from people outside the organisation.”
One nurse she spoke to faced five years of defamation, false sexual allegations, and breaches of privacy. That nurse had her addresss and phone number posted on a public blog then had strangers call her up.
The Nursing Council got in touch with the nurse after being notified of the false sexual allegations, D’Souza said
Another nurse was defamed for several months, while the third faced hostility and aggression, as well as inappropriate calls and voice messages over several years.
The online bullying, especially from outsiders, was particularly-pernicious as it was not just confined to workplaces.
Because it was on social media they had no control over who saw it, which could include family members.
Of the nurses she spoke to, just one was able to successfully resolve the matter and D’Souza said more work was needed to address it.
“Unlike with traditional bullying, across all cases, organisations lacked any existing policy or guidelines on cyberbullying, at least from target perspectives,” a report on her thesis said.
Nurses’ Organisation magazine Kai Tiaki Nursing dubbed cyber-bullying as a “new nursing phenomenon”, saying it was a growing problem in the industry.