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Addressing Workplace Incivility in Healthcare: A Call for Respect and Collaboration

Aug 2, 2023 | 0 comments

Aug 2, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Workplace incivility is a major setback in the healthcare sector, affecting both the physicians’ welfare as well as the quality of patient care. It is quite unfortunate to note that a profession whose main purpose is to care for people has issues related to taking care of each other. Incivility can be in form of impolite and disrespectful dealings of rumor-mongering and or declining to help a colleague. All of those insult a coworker’s dignity and infringe on the respective guidelines set for every professional to follow. These actions can as well involve mocking, using a disdainful tone, and publicly criticizing someone. The negative effects of incivility can be major and extensive and cause harm not only to the targeted nurses, but also the onlookers, peers, stakeholders, and institutes. If not attended to, it may sometimes advance into threatening circumstances or aggression.

Usually, incivility is not intended for any particular individual or individuals. Nonetheless, it can bring about or lead to harassment and workplace hostility; hence it cannot be described as harmless or trivial. The American Nurses Association recommended that all nurses have the right to work in an environment that does not condone harassment, lateral violence, and fear. Nurses should therefore not be afraid of retaliation for exposing such acts to the management. No matter how hard people try to ignore it, incivility does exist in the nursing world and there needs to be a way to end it. This paper will examine the level of incivility in the healthcare sector and possible ways to solve it.


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Effects of Incivility on a Nurse’s Ability to Make Clinical Judgments

Incivility at the workplace harms someone’s intrinsic feeling of self-respect and assurance which ends up in certain corporal warning signs like headaches, interrupted sleep, and intestinal uneasiness. Those actions may also relate to mental conditions such as increased levels of emotional tension, nervousness, irritability, and despair (American Nurses Association, 2015). According to reports, this increased stress is said to advance to post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Such effects are likely to worsen medical decision-making to the degree that nurse productivity is largely affected. According to research conducted by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices, it was reported that nurse intimidation often leads to medication errors. Other researchers report that incivility among nurses often leads to increased errors in patient safety, increased incidences of patient falls, administering medicines late, and medication mistakes (Amos, 2013). As such, if incivility decreases a nurse’s confidence and competence, then this can extensively affect the quality of patient care and intervention outcomes.

Nurses often ignore incivility at the workplace because of their lack of knowledge. Incivility also leads to reduced limited workplace commitment among the nursing staff. Incivility at the workplace is also one of the reasons nurses quit or plan to quit the profession. Furthermore, new graduate nurses entering into the healthcare workforce are often met with incivility. This in turn affects their organizational commitment and their ability to make clear judgments with regards to patient care. Most nurses also often display a decrease in job satisfaction hence start absenting themselves from work and this affects’ their ability to deliver the right care to the ailing.

Issues that occur with workplace or clinical site incivility

A workplace filled with incivility often contributes to unhealthy work environments that in turn negatively affect the quality and safety of patient care. Incivility among nurses impacts both the nurse’s drive to work and patients’ safety and intervention outcomes. It often leads to heightened patient undesirable outcomes and their general wellbeing risk (American Nurses Association, 2015). According to recent research, it is reported that any form of disruptive behavior, whether clinician or colleague incivility, has the same effects on patient safety outcomes.

Each one can harbor direct impacts on the noted frequency of undesirable outcomes and nurse-assessment quality. How nurse incivility translates to limited patient safety is often when there exist negative interpersonal communications between nurses and their superiors or physicians; thus efficient communication concerning patient needs and practices starts to be affected (Amos, 2013). In the long run, this leads to a deteriorated care delivery system and heightens the probability of unwanted patient care outcomes.

How the workplace or clinical site communication is affected due to incivility

Effective communication is a key requirement for better patient care and safety. Because of the stressful healthcare workplace, it is no wonder nurses often find themselves communicating in disrespectful and inconsiderate manners. Incivility often negatively impacts close-loop communication channels in the healthcare setting since such negative behaviors usually isolate nurses from each other. If there is no close-loop communication, misinterpretation of information becomes unavoidable hence leading to increased tension in the workplace.

Tension in the workplace is believed to affect effective teamwork behaviors like coordination and performance monitoring (Amos, 2013). Furthermore, such strain is said to often limit team productivity and efficiency. Incivility also detriments the communication process in that if a lot of people are involved in an issue that could have been handled individually, the nurse is likely not to provide the quality of care they are required to.

Initiatives to decrease Workplace Incivility

There are several actions that health care leaders should take to promote civility among nurses. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses clearly states that the nursing profession cannot tolerate violence, bullying, or incivility any longer. The association further adds that knowing that you are a nurse makes you obligated, both legally and ethically, to “promote an ethical environment and culture of civility and kindness, treating colleagues, employees, students, and others with dignity and respect” (American Nurses Association, 2015). It provides for three intervention measures that nurses experiencing incivility can use to address the perpetrators. These are: primary prevention which aims at improving interpersonal and interprofessional relations as well as addressing vulnerabilities; secondary prevention intends on reducing the negative effects of incivility and bullying; and tertiary intervention whose purpose is to minimize the consequences of workplace violence.

As a nurse, one is required to first understand that they are obligated to help develop an ethical and safe environment for everybody they work with and care for. Also, they should acknowledge the fact that they are worthy of and should be accorded the same respectful treatment from fellow workmates (American Nurses Association, 2015). One also needs to let go of the need to gossip about others, shift blame, or isolate others they do not like. Also important is an open, respectful, and clear communication system in which people are ready to listen to each other’s opinions without having to disregard them.

As such, these provisions give practical options for nurses and physicians to help tackle the issue of workplace incivility. Most importantly, nursing managers are expected to establish a working environment where nurses feel empowered and encouraged in the workplace. Healthcare settings are then required to enforce new policies against workplace incivility and create an environment open to educating on the importance of teamwork (Amos, 2013). It is important that training should be offered throughout all the levels of workers in the healthcare environment so that the whole institution can have a sense of civility.

Additionally, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses provides behavior guidelines to be followed by nurse practitioners in a healthcare environment. These guidelines include; effective communication, honest collaboration, efficient decision making, meaningful recognition, appropriate staffing, and authentic leadership (American Nurses Association, 2015). Having all healthcare settings abide by these guidelines, incivility becomes a thing of the past, as communication and effective leadership are key to curbing uncivil behavior among nurses.


Incivility in the healthcare environment not only affects the nurses’ welfare but the patients’ safety as well. Matters concerning communication are also affected by incivility. Incivility has been noted to pose a serious threat to nursing burnout, stress, lack of communication, and deteriorated mental and physical health outcomes. Incivility among nurses has become very prevalent in many healthcare institutions mostly because of the many new graduate nurses entering the field. These incivility incidences need to be directly addressed, and training given concerning the hospital setting, the number of nurses, and the extent of incivility among co-workers. Nurses and all healthcare stakeholders have a duty to identify the different types of workplace incivility and how usual they are in the work setting. It is only through identifying and distinguishing the different forms of nurse incivility that the relevant stakeholders, including the nurses, can collectively develop ways of creating a culture of respect, safety, and effective interpersonal communication.


American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements.

Amos, K. S. (2013). Nursing faculty members’ perspectives of faculty-to-faculty workplace incivility among nursing faculty members (Doctoral dissertation).

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