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Bullying in the workplace

02 October 2023
Volume 31 · Issue 10


George F Winter discusses the prevalence of reports highlighting bullying in midwifery, and the evidence for ways to address this issue

Bullying has more manifestations beyond being argumentative or rude, and can include overloading people with work, spreading malicious rumours, denying someone's training or promotion opportunities, and using social media to humiliate, threaten or offend (NHS, 2022). In a midwifery context, the Ockenden (2022) report into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust cites one staff member who commented that ‘the bullying culture from top down breeds bullying. I used to be proud to work there, but that changed from 2006’.

The British Journal of Midwifery has previously drawn attention to bullying. To take two examples, Newman (2019) observed that, far from bullying being healthcare's ‘dirty little secret’, it was a recurring feature of national news. The author cited a survey of 1500 health professionals, of whom 81% had experienced bullying, and noted that ‘in maternity, women never forget the midwife whose stress led them to be unkind or dismissive’ (Newman, 2019). In a survey of UK and Australian midwifery students, Capper et al (2020) reported that age mediates the bullying experience, with younger students exposed to direct verbal attack, and strategic, covert approaches deployed against older students. They found that ‘midwives, specifically mentors, are the most common perpetrators for both younger and older students’ (Capper et al, 2020).

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