Bullying is nothing new in the healthcare workplace. It has been widely reported among medical residents and nurses and was also the subject of a talk at the most recent annual meeting of ASET- the Neurodiagnostic Society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has now introduced a whole new set of stressors to the workplace, and research is showing this may be resulting in a general uptick in bullying. So, as states open and more EEG technologists return to work, does this mean they will also be returning to a potential increase in bullying? If so, what can they do about it?

“Bullying is more likely to occur in high-stress settings with high-stakes outcomes, heavy workloads, and low job autonomy,” say the authors of this 2019 study of bullying among nurses, and it can be said of the jobs EEG technologists do as well.

Bullying – common within hierarchical work structures like healthcare – is insidious, and its effects go beyond harming the mental health and job satisfaction of the individual targeted. Bullying can contribute to an overall poor work environment, lost productivity, and lower patient satisfaction scores. It can even negatively impact patient safety.

The best approach to this problem is to prevent bullying in the first place. In an effort to find tangible methods of prevention, the authors of this review, published in The Cochrane Library, performed a meta analysis of proven methods. Among their findings, the Civility, Respect, and Engagement in the Workforce (CREW) intervention showed the most promise.

The Veterans Administration (VA) uses the CREW intervention. First introduced in 2005,  it has since been utilized by more than 1,200 VA work groups “to establish a culture of respect and civility in their organization,” they write. Trained facilitators regularly meet with work groups to improve employee interaction.

Without a culture of support, civility, and respect, bullying can more easily take hold. Once this happens it can be hard for the targeted employee to stand up for him- or herself, but it does happen.

“Sometimes you just have to take a stand,” said Dorothy Gaiter, an EEG tech who spoke at the 2019 annual conference of ASET about overcoming bullying by a physician. For anyone feeling bullied who wants to speak out, “the biggest lesson is to document everything,” she says. “Every instance.”

In documenting her experiences, Gaiter improved the strength of her case and gained the confidence to speak up.

“Admit there is a problem,” write the authors of the nurse’s study cited previously in this post. “Bullying will thrive so long as no one speaks about it, and even if you do not think it is going on at your organization, it could crop up at any time.”

This lesson is well worth remembering as EEG techs and others return to work. Yes, life in the midst of a pandemic has brought added stress and anxiety. It could lead to increased bullying. But this virus has also helped us hone priorities – such as our well-being at work.