URI conference to address horizontal violence among nurses

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 3, 2009 – A worker who feels slighted withholds information from a colleague, slowing down a project and creating resentment. A younger member of the team asks a question of a more seasoned staffer, and the more experienced individual rolls his eyes or sighs loudly. Add to those problems the common gossiping and backstabbing in any work environment and it’s a wonder any work gets done.

But when these behaviors occur among nurses, they can have dire results for patients and can demoralize even the most optimistic members of a nursing staff.

That’s why the University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing is hosting the conference, “Ending Horizontal Violence, Creating a Culture of Cohesion Among Nurses,” April 29 through May 1 at the Westin Hotel, Providence.

The Joint Commission, the primary agency for accrediting hospitals and other health care agencies, mandated that leaders must address disruptive behavior at all levels of health care organizations. The commission’s expectation is that leaders will put in place strategies this year to address disruptive behaviors.

“That language gave us the impetus to plan a national conference on the issues,” said URI Professor of Nursing Patricia Burbank. “We know that these types of behaviors are not unique to nursing, but they are associated with patient safety and nurse dissatisfaction. It is a big issue because of the intensity and complexity of the environment. None of us act our best when we’re stressed.

“We have nurses coming from all over the country, as well as Canada, Turkey and Australia.”

Since 2006 when it received an anonymous gift to address what is called horizontal violence, URI’s College of Nursing has been focusing on critical workplace issues for nurses, most notably how to develop an environment of trust, cooperation and mutual respect.

The College awarded mini-grants to Westerly, Butler, Rhode Island, The Miriam and Eleanor Slater hospitals, to study the issues.

The conference’s keynote speech will be given, Wednesday, April 29 from 1 to 2:15 p.m. by Kathleen Bartholomew, author of Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility: Why Nurses Eat Their Young and Each Other.

Before turning to health care as a career in 1994, Bartholomew held positions in marketing, business, communications and teaching. Those experiences allowed her to look at nursing from a different perspective and to talk about issues that affect nurses today. A registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing, she has been a national speaker for the nursing profession for the past six years. As the manager of 57-bed surgical unit in Seattle, Bartholomew quickly recognized that creating a culture where staff felt a sense of belonging was critical to retention.

For her master’s thesis, she wrote, Speak Your Truth: Proven Strategies for Effective Nurse-Physician Communication, the only book to date that addresses physician-nurse issues.

In her 2006 book, Ending Nurse to Nurse Violence, she offers the first comprehensive and compassionate look at horizontal violence. She said statistics demonstrate that 60 percent of new grads leave their first position within six months because of some form of lateral violence.

In addition to Bartholomew’s presentation, talks will be given by:

• Gerald Farrell, head of the School of Nursing at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday April 29, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Horizontal Violence: Examining Theories and Underlying Causes.” He is author of the book, Aggression: A Nurses Guide to Therapeutic Management, as well as many articles, including Horizontal Violence: Examining Theories and Underlying Causes.

• Martha Griffin of the Boston Medical Center, who earned her doctorate in nursing from URI, Thursday, April 30 from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m., “Reducing Horizontal Violence; Organizational, Unit and Individual Nurses.”

• Laurie M. Lauzon Clabo, URI associate dean of nursing, Thursday, April 30, 11 a.m. to noon, “Reducing Horizontal Violence: Unit Level Interventions.”

For further information or to register, go to www.uri.edu/meeturi/nursing. Those who register before March 31 will get a discount rate of $300. Those who register between April 1 and April 28 will pay a $425 fee. On the day of the event, the fee is $475.