Disillusioned 'tall poppy' speaks out.
Article Type: Letter to the editor
Pub Date: 05/01/2010
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: May, 2010 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 4
Accession Number: 227796723
Full Text: I have been reading with great interest the articles on bullying published in recent issues of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Most articles have focused on bullying in district health boards (DHBs). I would Like to highlight bullying that goes on in other areas.

My area of expertise is cancer and palliative care. How could bullying happen in places like hospices or be practised by people working in them, readers might wonder. Sadly, I can assure you it does.

I have experienced bullying from nurses, most of whom are very experienced and in positions of power, such as nurse practitioners (NPs). My experience of support from a director of nursing (DON) was pathetic. I have also been bullied by doctors, some of whose skills were questionable. I have also experienced bullying from senior staff working in not-for-profit organisations. The worrying thing is that not-for-profit organisations such as hospices have no accountability other than to themselves and their boards.

At the last organisation I worked, the chief executive told me nurses in New Zealand were considered second-class citizens. There was a major investigation into bullying, following numerous accusations from current staff and staff who had been forced to leave. The board employed the investigator. This was a questionable process, as it could hardly be called an independent investigation. The DHB, a part-funder of the organisation, and the DoN knew this but did nothing to support me. Their view was "it was nothing to do with them", although they knew what was going on. The investigation found no evidence of bullying. This meant the bullying continued and people kept their heads down for fear of losing their jobs. I felt forced to leave.

I was told by a nurse who was applying to be an NP that I should keep my head down and not have an opinion. Is this what we are aspiring to as nurse leaders? I have been called a tall poppy. I love to think I am one, because I believe I am innovative, I question, I have an opinion, I am knowledgeable and very qualified. However, in New Zealand these are not good attributes, and tall poppies are destroyed in one way or another. Accountability for these issues should lie with the Ministry of Health and the Nursing Council. Until this happens most nurses will always be second class citizens.

A disillusioned nurse, Auckland [name withheld by arrangement with the coeditors]
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