A pathway to a healthier you

Workplace bullying

Bullying may be experienced at any level of your career and is unacceptable in any workplace environment. Nurses, midwives and students who are bullied may experience:

  • feelings of shame and isolation 
  • psychological stress
  • lowered self-confidence and self-esteem
  • depression and/or anxiety 
  • PTSD and suicidal thoughts (in extreme cases). 

Identifying workplace bullying is not always straightforward as bullying behaviors can be subtle. If you’re unsure if what you’re experiencing is bullying, seek out a trusted colleague or friend or call us to talk it through about what you can do.  

Harmful to us, our patients, our workplaces

Workplace bullying not only affects the person being bullied. It also impacts negatively on other staff and workplace culture. This can result in low staff morale, increased sick leave and high turnover. Perpetrators may be managers, supervisors, colleagues or other employees, patients and relatives. 

Personal skills that can deter bullies

Those most vulnerable to bullying include students, new graduates and overseas qualified nurses and midwives. Research shows staff with speaking-up skills experience less incivility/ bullying and also less impact on their personal wellbeing. 

Our workplaces must preventing bullying 

The nursing and midwifery professions are required to uphold workplaces free of bullying, as per the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics. We know that respectful work environments help establish positive culture that supports the prevention and elimination of bullying behaviours.  

Bullied or harassed at work?

Have a confidential chat with a nurse or midwife who understands.

Workplace bullying

Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Unreasonable behavior includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

52% of nursing and midwifery staff in a 2018 Victorian survey had witnessed some type of bullying. (Hartin, Birks and Lindsay, 2018.) 

Over 50% of nursing students have experienced bullying and/or harassment during their clinical placements (Budden, Birks, Cant, Bagley & Park, 2017).  

In a 2021 study, 38.8% of participants reported weekly or more frequent incivility or bullying. Nurses aged 25–34 years reported incivility/bullying and extreme behaviour more often than other staff. (Westbrook et al., 2021). 

I experienced workplace bullying by my manager and suffered a breakdown. Because of the workplace bullying, I felt a failure as a nurse.
Nurse leaders play a vital role in the prevention of bullying through the demonstration of a clear commitment to the elimination of workplace bullying and visibly supporting an open culture in which unacceptable behaviours are addressed expeditiously.
ACN Position Statement, 2016.


A single incident of unreasonable behavior is not considered to be workplace bullying, however it may have the potential to escalate and should not be ignored
Safe Work Australia, 2013

Performance management or feedback that is justified and reasonable should not be confused with workplace bullying.

In the morning I realised I was crying in the shower. I laugh now but at the time I would tremble. In the end I left. I went on sick leave, went to a psychologist and to see an industrial lawyer,” says ICU nurse and manager Nel, of her experience of workplace bullying. While Nel went on to recover from the experience of workplace bullying it took considerable time away from work and with consequences to her health and wellbeing.