Civility Versus Incivility in Nursing: how the Two Affect Professionalism in Nursing

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Not very many people consider the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, this includes nurses as well. At times, hostile work environments are created by the nursing staff. Not all of the nursing staff creates these environments and there are even fewer who realize that they might be causing it. However, whether or not it is intentional it is still a factor of the patient's safety. It can also create workplace violence, including, but not limited to, patient-nurse violence. Incivility will also lead to burn-out and high turnover rates due to dissatisfaction within the place of work. Regrettably, this also includes nursing students in their clinical settings. According to the ANA, there are no laws or current federal legislation that requires hospitals or offices to protect against any kind of bullying or uncivil actions. Unfortunately, it seems as though civility is very rarely seen or practiced in the nursing field. Professionals in the health care environment need to be more civil with each other and to the patients in the future. This will help to construct an enriched working environment. This would also help reduce the amount of interdepartmental changes that are being made by the newer generation of nurses. It would also help keep the newer generations from wanting to leave the profession. If these problems are brought to light and the problems are corrected, then more students would be willing to join the nursing program.


There are a number of people who do not fully comprehend the word incivility. They do not recognize that it includes gossiping, being rude to other nurses or patients, using vulgar language, and belittling other people. It does not matter if these actions are intentional or all in good fun. These behaviors foster volatile and dangerous working surroundings.


A nurse's atmosphere is supposed to be therapeutic. It is increasingly difficult to maintain that when there is a constant occurrence of impoliteness and disrespect surrounding them (Critical Care Nurse, 2016). If a nurse has to deal with another nurse or patient being bad-mannered or offensive it can affect any number of activities the nurse must complete before the end of their shift. The nurse might be playing that scenario over in their head when they are pulling medications or performing a task with a patient. The study also shows that rudeness steals a fragment from our working memory and will affect the nurse's ability to think critically when providing care to their patients. More than eighty percent of the respondents for a study conveyed that condescending language was being used and workers were being impatient with questions (Spiri, Brantley and McGuire, 2017). This could be a problem, because a nurse might keep their questions to themselves or waste time by asking a different individual their question. The study also showed that seventy-eight percent of respondents experienced a colleague's reluctance to answer questions or return phone calls. Sixty percent of the respondents reported instances where their questions were not answered at all, and they were just informed to do as they were told. All of these actions greatly increase the chance of interfering with a patient's safety (Spiri, Brantley and McGuire, 2017).

Bullying and Gossiping

Most individuals do not consider the consequences of bullying inside the place of work as well as outside of that environment. As Spiri, Brantley, and McGuire point out in their study for incivility, is that in the hospital or office, the nurse that is being intimidated or tormented by other coworkers is that it could result in a breakdown of communication between the staff (Spiri, Brantley, and McGuire, 2017). The nurse that is being bullied will most likely avoid the people who are harassing her and that could lead to potential problems on the floor. Their study showed that fifty-five percent of the eight hundred hospital staff interviewed avoided the person that they had an altercation with and requested another colleague to help them, forty-seven percent did not look for help and took care of the problem on their own, thirty-one percent reported that they took the word of that person. Four people stated that they ended up having medication errors when intimidation was a part of the conversation. Outside of the work environment, a nurse could become depressed due to what they are going through at work and could bring it home and mull over the situation all night. Some bullying could even lead to suicide, due to a person no longer being able to deal with the harassment every day. In numerous situations a nursing student might be exposed to or experience bullying by the nursing staff during clinicals. This could also make the nursing student afraid to report the issue. This can have serious consequences on the student's performance due to the fact that most students and professors are not taught how to deal with or prevent incivility.


Having a nursing team on the floor that works well together will not only help to prevent harm to the patients, but can also promote a healthy mental environment for the staff, nursing students and the professors. A work environment is supposed to be a healing and therapeutic place. Being civil can essentially increase work productivity because the nurses and staff enjoy being at their job where they can focus on providing quality care to their patients (American Nurse Today, 2012).

It is important that all health care establishments get on board with providing education and resources. This will help promote a strong, nourishing and beneficial working environment. Not taking action against people or activities can damage relationships within the working place. It is vital that all nurses and healthcare workers think about how they can provide top notch care and promote safety for their patients. Being uncivil towards other nurses or patients will not have a good outcome and therefore is unnecessary and frowned upon in the workplace.

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Civility versus Incivility in Nursing: How the Two Affect Professionalism in Nursing. (2019, Mar 27). Retrieved April 16, 2024 , from

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