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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.