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March 18, 2017

Meet Renee Thompson: Leading The Fight Against Nurse Bullying

Dr. Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN is an adult clinical practice and professional development expert. After more than 25 years as a clinical nurse, nurse educator and nurse executive, Renee has become one of our country’s leading authorities on workplace bullying, clinical competence and nursing culture. She can be found on her website, ReneeThompsonSpeaks.com

Tell us about your nursing career.

I’ve been a nurse for more than 26 years and always say I’ve done everything you can do as a nurse. My clinical background is cardiac and neurosurgical step down but I’ve also worked as a home care nurse, a unit manager in a managed care company, a nurse educator, nurse executive, and now as a nurse entrepreneur. There are so many opportunities in the nursing profession and I’ve dabbled in most.

You have a strong social media presence. How do you use social media to communicate with nurses? 

I use social media to share valuable content (either mine or that of others), inspire nurses to believe in themselves and always do the right thing, and to highlight other amazing nurses who are positive role models for the rest of us. There is so much negativity and complaining in the world. To counter this negativity, I’ve chosen to use social media to spread the good, and to educate, connect, and inspire other nurses.

We know you’re a nurse speaker, consultant, and writer. Do you also work as a clinician? If so, where? 

I do! Because I still teach clinical courses (med/surg certification review courses and others), it’s important that I still practice at the bedside. I work a few days per month on a medical telemetry observation unit in a community hospital in Pittsburgh. I always said that I would never teach clinical content if I didn’t practice. 

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You are a nationally recognized expert on bullying (lateral violence) in nursing; in 2017, where are we in the battle to eradicate bullying from our profession? 

I wish I could say that nurse bullying is decreasing, but unfortunately it’s not. Every day a nurse reaches out to me asking for help. Numerous studies show that nurses are experiencing bullying by coworkers or witnessing it in the workplace. However, the good news is that at least we are starting to talk about it. 

I’ve always said that one of the reasons why bullying continues is because we are using silence as a strategy. Obviously, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. 

I am optimistic that because of the work I’m doing (and other nurses, too) to take bullying out of the closet and into our conversations, we will be able to finally address and eliminate this embarrassing behavior in a profession dedicated to caring and compassion!

How can nurses bully-proof themselves? 

I write a lot about this in my books and other resources. However, one of the best strategies to bully-proof yourself is to speak up the first time someone says or does something unprofessional. Some bullies test their potential targets by saying something slightly offensive and then wait to see if the nurse says anything. If they don’t speak up, they assume the nurse is an easy target. 

What should a nurse do if he or she is bullied, or is witness to bullying? 

Tell someone you are either being bullied or you are witnessing the bullying of others. 40% of all targets don’t speak up, and this is one of the reasons why bullying can continue for decades without leadership knowing about it. 

Another strategy is to document, document, and document! Seriously. Documenting incidents of bullying behavior can be a powerful weapon used to address and eliminate the behavior. 

Bullies got you down?  See what you can do about it!

7. If you could talk to every new nurse just entering the profession, what’s the most crucial advice you would give? 

Always stay on the path of continuous learning, and seek out the wisdom and knowledge of experienced nurses who are passionate about supporting and nurturing newer nurses. We are out there – find us!

If you were to name several habits that assist you in being effective and productive, what would they be? 

I’m always trying to get more done than is humanly possible! Although I’ve tried a variety of productivity tools over the years, a few simple habits that I’ve incorporated into my life have made the biggest difference in my ability to get things done. 

I read every morning for 30 minutes. This allows me to expand my knowledge and keeps me relevant with my audience. I will go without food before I will go without my reading! Reading is more nourishing. 

I write for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour a day (typically, right after I read). Writing actually doesn’t come naturally for me and it’s not something I love to do. I always say, “I’m a speaker, not a writer.” However, it’s important for me that I am producing valuable content in the written form via blog articles, books, resources, etc. 

Writing early in my day assures that I will actually put words on paper! If I wait until later, other distractions and demands will take over, giving me an excuse not to write.

I make a massive to do list every week, figure out how long each task will take (multiply that time by three), and then actually schedule the work on my calendar. Each morning I then identify the three most important tasks that need to be done – I do them first, and then focus on the rest. This assures me that I address the priority items before life gets in the way.

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What do you do to stay fit, relax, and have fun outside of work? 

I love spending time with my family and friends, whether it’s cooking together (I make a mean ravioli!), attending shows and concerts, traveling (I’m in New Orleans right now celebrating my daughter’s 30th birthday!) or attending a Zumba class with my daughter. I have a variety of interests that keep me fit, and an amazing network of good humans who inspire me to have fun AND occasionally relax.

As a successful nurse entrepreneur, what would you say to nurses who are thinking of going into business? 

I’ve encouraged many nurses who express an interest in starting a business like I did to take a leap of faith and just start. You don’t have to necessarily quit your job like I did; you can start smart. The key is to start. 

The best way to do this is to find a few nurses who are doing what you want to do (or something similar), ask if you can interview them (offer to buy coffee or lunch either in person or virtually), and find out what they did to get to where they are now. What lessons did they learn along the way? What would they do differently? What advice would they give their younger self? You can’t imagine how valuable this information is. 

Success leaves clues. Look for the clues in others who have been successful.

Next Up: Meet LeAnn Thieman | Serving Chicken Soup For Nurses’ Souls

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