Apr 30, 2019

“Bullying will tear you apart”: a young nurse speaks out about working in aged care

 

A young, recently graduated nurse who was undermined and gossiped about in her first job in a nursing home is encouraging anyone who is being bullied at work to resign.

HelloCare recently published an article which claimed that bullying is rife in the aged care workforce. We received a number of responses to the article, with readers reaching out to share similar experiences.

One such reader, a nurse who asked that her name not be revealed, said she was constantly made to feel her work wasn’t good enough, and the staff gossiped about her. Admin staff, carers and managers spoke to her as though she “wasn’t human”.

The job was her first after qualifying, but, sadly, Christine (not her real name) found the facility was “not a great place” where there was little support for residents and staff. The facility’s culture thrived on gossip, Christine said.

Christine found the experience of working at the facility deeply upsetting.

“I had no prior experience and it was very stressful for me,” she said.

“I did not expect such treatment”

“The bullying… happened really suddenly,” Christine said.

“I did not expect such treatment,” she said, because in her placements in aged care facilities, carers and nurses had been “very helpful”.

The bullying quickly began to take a toll on Christine’s wellbeing.

“It made me cry a lot. It affected my sleep because every night before my shift the next day I’d think what I’ve done wrong and why am I getting treated like that,” she said.

“I would cry before my shift starts – and that’s when you know that workplace is bad for your mental being.” She often called in sick.

Christine told her clinical coordinator about her concerns but, worryingly, nothing was done.

The “last straw” came when a carer yelled at Christine in front of the residents and a cleaner because, according to the carer, she was too slow. The carer knew Christine was busy, with only one carer and one nurse on duty to care for 14 residents, and all tasks having to be performed by noon.

“It may not look like a lot but when behaviour problems and lack of cooperation comes up…. you think about it,” Christine said.

“In the facility I was in, the nurses also had to do activities of daily living and nursing duties, which can be really hard to balance if something goes wrong, and that day we had falls,” she said.

After two weeks in the role, Christine resigned.

Bullying led Christine to question her commitment to working in aged care

The experience of being bullied at work has made Christine question her desire to work in aged care.

“I’m not so sure if I want to continue in aged care due to the [staff to resident] ratio and lack of discipline, but I do know I love nursing,” she said.

Christine is currently looking for a new role, and has a job outside of nursing at present. She’s optimistic about finding work as a nurse.

“I believe I’ll find [a nursing job] someday,” she said.

Becoming a nurse was a dream come true

Christine decided she wanted to become a nurse after helping her father care for his elderly mother.

“I wanted to become a nurse because when I was younger, my dad took care of my sick grandma who also had dementia.”

It was tough for her father, who was also a single parent taking care of Christine and her sister.

“He took care of the three of us without any complaints,” she said.

One day, Christine’s father fell ill, and Christine took on his role caring for both her sister, and her grandmother.

“It inspired me to become a nurse and I eventually did my enrolled nursing studies a few years later, when I was of age,” she said.

Christine’s father recovered, and he eventually became a carer and manager in an aged care facility in Malaysia. But Christine made the brave decision to move to Australia.

“I came to Australia by myself to pursue my dreams!” she told HelloCare.

Don’t put up with bullying

Christine said she recommends anyone who feels their mental wellbeing is being undermined by a bullying attitude at work should resign.

“My advice to other nurses, or even carers, [is] don’t ever put up with bullying.

“It’s not right. It will eat you up slowly and eventually tear you apart.

“Please don’t ever think you’re not good enough. You ARE good enough!” she said.

“The facility just doesn’t care about you enough because to them it’s all about profits (which is so very wrong). You’d be dead tomorrow and they’ll easily replace you,” Christine observed.

“So please, leave if it has started to impact you,” she said.

Christine was lucky enough to have a second job, which made her decision to resign easier. Of course, many nurses or aged care staff do not have a second job to fall back on, making resigning a more complex choice.

But aged care facilities should be places of kindness and care, and they often are. If staff find themselves unhappy at work due to bullying or gossip, their good nature, skills and experience will no doubt be greatly appreciated by other employers in a sector that is crying out for good people.

*Not her real name.

 

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  1. Thank you Hellocare and Christine for sharing this article . #stopbullyingnow Bullying is not acceptable in any form . With the challenges and work load pressures we have we need to come together to work respectfully, kindly and suppotively of each other. So much more is achieved with this approach than taking things out on others. A good manager and leaders set the standards of a good culture within a work place . The longer bullying goes on the higher risk and detriment to the victims health and wellbeing . After watching the film the Target based on real life stories of bullying directed by Giovanna Mercuri from Locked in Productions you would never even consider bullying anybody . No to bullying , absolute no . This will be one of my suggestions in the Royal Commission Into Aged Care as a solution that a campaign against bullying is run and that laws and policies on this are taken seriously . I recall my career in Aged Care Nursing which included both the good and bad with first hand experience of bullying . I suffered a life changing back injury from a bully (a Manager) that took me out of my career. Then there was the pathway of going through further bullying with pursuing of work cover and this process was very unsupported. Another suggestion is we bring back mentorship, nominated work colleagues who are genuinely keen, kind and caring and wanting to support others. We need the “ Gathering of Kindness Movement “ launched by Professor Dr Catherine Crock OA ( Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne ) in 2016 to spread across all our aged care services and within our work place cultures.

    1. It is not just for nurses but also for Carers as well & the whole culture. However, it is not for all establishments. It can also happen in any nursing facility. Assertiveness training skills & also being able to stand up for yourself to the point of they will get rid of you & they cover thwir tracks. It is tough but it is the way it is. This is based on my own personal experience. Migrants are also easy targets.

    2. How true, I’ve been fighting in Fairwork for the last 11 months over unfair dismissal.
      Sacked for using my mobile phone to take happy snaps of residents as they loved it.
      But the real reason I believe management wanted me gone to put their friend in my position and the bullying I endured which seemed to be supported by management is cruel.
      But I agree just resign the strength thats needed
      To prove your innocence is not worth it.

  2. I am sorry to read your experience as a new post grad. I would like to say here that there is a facility out there who will appreciate and nurture your skills as a registered nurse, and a compassionate one by all reading accounts. As a provider and registered nurse I am deeply regretful that there are still providers who allow this to happen, I have two postgrad nurses and offer mentoring, education and support, (I am a 63 place facility). I would like to think the pressure of staffing and finances has contributed to this situation but in no way excuse it, human decency seems to be absent here. I wish you luck and encourage you to pursue your chosen profession.

  3. I’m sorry that Christine has had this experience. Devils advocate for a second.. What if she just wasn’t up to the job? What if she was slow, emotional and just lacking in skills?
    Was Christine actually incompetent? Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen, there are people that take on different jobs every day that just can’t hack it and sometimes that’s on them.

    Spare a thought for Christine’s co workers that were carrying her for those weeks for a second. It’s a demanding job and everyone has to pull their weight but occasionally that doesn’t happen unfortunately.
    If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen!
    So I challenge the bullying claim and suggest that just possibly the other staff were frustrated with Christine’s commitment and did the right thing by trying to encourage her to do the job properly and in a timely manner?

    Probably not a popular view but it just might be correct, there are always two sides a story.
    Don’t judge until you know the facts.

    1. There is actually 3 sides to every story. The truth, Christine perception of of occurred and the staff side. Even if I take your argument on board I wonder how Christine was welcomed into the organisation. Was she given a comprehensive orientation program. Did she have a buddy appointed to support her? Was sort of feedback had she been given about her performance at the end of each day. Regardless of what happened the aged care industry has lost a nurse. Christine will never go back to aged care and neither will her nursing friends once they hear her story

    2. Anton, I agree with your comments. Tere is often more to the situation than we know. I agree bullying is not an option but there is a lot of incompetence in the workplace. I think mentorship should be encouraged. I became an assistant nurse in later life and it was the encouragement and mentorship of colleagues that got me through. They could see I was willing to learn and seek improvement and be a team player.

  4. Very sad but true that bullying is alive and well in aged care. ‘The Fish rots from the head down’.The managers set the culture. If favouritism exists and they turn a blind eye to bullying or they are bullies themselves, what chance does a new staff member have. I find it ironic when over the years there is high staff turnover and high levels of sick leave, low staff morale, bullying is rife, workloads are excessively high,and yet the managers continue to say that “we can’t find any new staff”! One thing these managers fail to realise is that bullying affects other staff and the residents. Wouldn’t it be good if these providers and managers were upfront & honest when advertising positions. For example, applicants must be able to shower, dress,toiet and transfer the resident within ELEVEN minutes.That way the employer woukd be getting exactly what they want and it would save a lot of heartache.

  5. those bullies don’t have any empathy for you or who they are supposed to be looking after … I have just put my husband in a facility & yes it is lovely but there is one thing wrong ….. NO STAFF … NO ONE TO REALLY SIT WITH MY HUBBY & HOLD HIS HAND FOR 5 MINUTES SO HE CAN CALM DOWN…. the staff that are there have to practically do everything & they do try hard & work hard at it with 10 Alzheimer patients & one person to look after them all is just too much…. the Govt need to push the aged care homes to have more experienced staff & extra ones in training for dementia ….. it is a rich business that is for sure & nobody but the partners & families care about what happens to their love ones…. once they get your money it is up to the staff to look after them but there is NO STAFF nor the care they should be receiving…… the govt needs to step in & make sure that the residents have that care…. forget the charter of rights that is just a piece of paper …..

  6. I had a similar experience with my first job working as a PCA. I had worked in Home Care for many years prior and just completed my Aged Care Cert III. From day one the staff didn’t make me feel good enough and other PCAs were not supportive just complained I was too slow. Granted I was used to a home care environment which isn’t so rushed, but I cared so much for each and every resident and always tried my best. I received nothing but negative feedback from a supposedly well known and reviewed facility with excellent reviews on staff which is why I applied in the first place. Felt very unsupported and not wanted. I was on the outer and could see them whispering about me. I felt like I would never belong and resigned after a month. I honestly thought I was doing ok and trying to rush around more but I still got comments of I wasn’t doing enough. To this day i still dont know why i was treated so badly. Did I care too much? Is it all about ticking off people on your roster than actually helping them with what they need? My next job in a facility was great and I worked in dementia for two years before going back to home care due to difficult hours when you have a young family. Night/evening shifts became too tiring but it was a great place to work with majority being lovely residents especially when I did the odd short shift in low care. I have no wish to work back in a nursing home as many managers worry more about making money than the residents. Unfortunately many home care providers are similar with the charges per month clients have to pay. But at least your clients get one on one care which is what they need the most. You know you are appreciated when you start getting permanent clients that ask for only you. If you are a caring person, home care is more suitable.

  7. I am here because I found myself in the same situation where I got bullied on my first and second aged care facility here in Australia. I am from the Philippines and I do know that it’s not me who is the problem because I am kind, have good manners, respectful and polite to all the staff. I decided to try aged care to honor my grandmother who took care of me when I was young. Having to know myself as being a highly sensitive person, looking after residents and helping them in their daily living will be something I will be good at. Unfortunately, not all have a good caring heart as I do. I found most of the staff lazy, treating elderly unfairly, intimidating, gossiping and more! It was very hard for me to see all these and even reporting to the manager, hoping for the issues that I saw in the facility put me in the worst position. I thought because the industry is about caring and looking after elderly would attract people with gentle hearts, it turned out completely the opposite way. I am scarred for life and would never want to be in the industry again. Luckily, I have a very supportive family beside me. They are very proud of me that I tried it and made it for few months. It is very saddening that aged care industry bullying is a big issue in the country and is getting bigger.

  8. Bullying is rife for staff working in aged care services in community and residential aged care homes . How do we get around this and change the culture? The bullying culture is in many other organisations (not ageing services ) as well .

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