How one nurse compares her workplace bullying story to the Wizard of Oz to bring about change

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  • 85 percent of nurses have been verbally abused by a fellow nurse.
  • 1 in 3 nurses quit because of bullying.
  • It’s bullying, not the wage, that is the major cause of the global nursing shortage (the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, there will be a shortfall of 1.05 million nurses).
  • Many hospital units don’t give nurses time to eat, take a walk, or even go to the bathroom.

– Claudia Sanborn, author of The Yellow Sick Road

Travel nurse Claudia Sanborn parallels the abusive events in her workplace bullying story with the Wizard of Oz characters in her book The Yellow Sick Road.

“My book has examples of drug stealing, a nurse put in harm’s way, management setting up and using nurses for their benefit, and overloaded nurses making medical errors. It’s all about money — not caring for people,” explains Sanborn.

“As a travel nurse, I visited the Smithsonian Museum and saw the ruby slippers. I researched everything regarding The Wizard of Oz, and it paralleled my life,” says Sanborn. “The wicked witch reminds me of the charge nurses, flying monkeys are the aides I couldn’t find, the CEO is like Oz, the Emerald City is the hospital, and I’m Dorothy — on my nurse travel assignments, I was homesick and just wanted to go home.”

Where she believes bullying comes from

Sanborn attributes workplace bullying to bullies’:

  • Need for power
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Poor leadership training
  • Learned behavior in their own family
  • Lack of rules or consequences
  • Fear
More specifically, she believes rampant nurse bullying comes from:
  • Lack of funding. “Funds are cut back in medicine, so nurses have more patients. They then take their stresses out on other nurses to survive. Nurses resort to politics so they don’t have to care for the more demanding patients,” explains Sanborn.
  • Competition
  • Fear of becoming the next target or losing their jobs
  • Stress

Why she wrote the book

“My book has tragic stories I want the public to know about,” says Sanborn. “I had to get it out. I keep a journal of how dysfunctional and abusive the medical field is and how the patients suffer.” Sanborn wrote the book for those who’ve been abused. She wants them to not feel alone.
And she’s achieved her goal. “My niece, a nurse, passed it on to three other nurses. They all said it helped them. They thought they were the only nurses who were burning out and dumped on with no respect. They felt badly they couldn’t give the care that they wanted to. I want public awareness and laws making it illegal to abuse in workforce.”

How we change the culture

Sanborn believes public awareness will bring about change. She says to:
  • Speak up. Sanborn spoke at a nurse rally in DC in May about her book. She’s networked with other leaders. She’s had book signings. She spreads the word on Facebook. She’s trying to get on talk shows like Dr. Phil. “I am semi-retired now and can’t be blackballed. I can’t be fired or laid off,” explains Sanborn of her ability to speak up.
  • Get involved. “Be involved in legislation and get laws passed to make workplace bullying illegal.”
  • Get support. “Join unions and have them fight for you.”

Get a copy of the book.

Learn more about author Claudia Sanborn.

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