A 'rite of passage?': Bullying experiences of nursing students in Australia

Melanie Birks, Lea M. Budden, Narelle Biedermann, Tanya Park, Ysanne Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Bullying in nursing remains an unacceptable international phenomenon and one that is widely reported in the literature. Recently, reports of bullying and harassment of nursing students have been increasing. Aim: This paper aims to describe bullying and harassment experienced by Australian nursing students while on clinical placement, as told by the participants. Methods: As part of a larger study, 884 Australian baccalaureate nursing students were surveyed to identify the nature and extent of their experiences of bullying and/or harassment during clinical placement. Almost half of the students (430) provided open-ended comments. These textual data were explored using a content analysis approach. Findings: The major themes derived from the analysis consisted of: manifestations of bullying and harassment; the perpetrators, consequences and impacts. Bullying behaviours included various forms of verbal, racial, physical and sexual abuse. Perpetrators of bullying included other nurses, medical professionals, administrative and support staff. Students reported anxiety, panic attacks, physical symptoms of distress and loss of confidence and self-esteem from their experience of bullying during clinical placement. Discussion: Bullying in nursing is a widespread yet poorly understood phenomenon that impacts negatively on the learning experience of vulnerable nursing students, effecting them physically, mentally and emotionally. The potential implications of the bullying of nursing students on patient care reinforces the need for the culture of bullying that exists amongst the nursing profession to be addressed. Conclusion: The findings of this research have implications for nursing educators and clinicians. Recommendations include ensuring adequate preparation of students, clinical instructors and registered nurses who work with students in the practice environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bullying
  • Clinical placement
  • Harassment
  • Incivility
  • Nursing education
  • Nursing students
  • Workplace violence

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