The Strategies One Nursing School Used to Combat Workplace Incivility

By Carol Davis

Incivility among nurse educators—bullying, disrespect, harassment—is growing and affects new nurses’ view of nursing as a profession, according to a new study published in NursingCenter.

Workplace incivility among faculty and students in nursing education has been known to have “detrimental effects on health and well-being, disrupt teaching and learning, and negatively impact the adequate preparation of new graduate nurses,” the study notes.

With 85% of nurses reporting incivility in healthcare, creating a culture of civility beginning in nursing school and extending into the workplace, is crucial to healthy environments and safe patient care, according to the study, which outlines a particular nursing program’s efforts to address incivility.

At a large nursing program in upstate New York, 100% of the nursing faculty reported that incivility was a major issue in the department. They enjoyed teaching nursing students but did not care to work together as a faculty group. Their complaints included a lack of teamwork, favoritism; undermining, demeaning comments; stealing others’ joy at work; blaming each other for incivility; bullying behavior; and failure to recognize accomplishments.

As a result, faculty did not work as a team in creating new innovative projects, developing and revising curricula, or simply helping each other when needed, according to the study, authored by Maureen Kroning, EdD, RN and Sara Annunziato, MSN, RN.

However, the faculty admitted their desire for a civil environment where they could experience joy in the workplace, so in May 2019, five nursing faculty launched an effort to address incivility and identify and implement effective strategies to create a civil environment so faculty could experience joy at work, according to the study.

The five faculty members and the nursing program director developed an Incivility Care Plan by incorporating the American Nurses Association (ANA) Nursing Process and the American Psychological Association’s five essential components to healthy workplace practices: employee involvement; work-life balance; employee growth and development; employee recognition; and health and safety.

“Each step in the nursing process can help address the issue of incivility,” the study says. “Care planning using the nursing process allows one to assess incivility, diagnose the human condition as a result of the incivility, plan and develop strategies or interventions, evaluate if the interventions were successful, and revise the plan of care as needed.”

The study was implemented in early 2020 and by March COVID-19 cases surged in New York. The unexpected rapid transition to remote teaching created intense challenges, but it also led to an equally unexpected, “unprecedented” level of collaboration and communication among faculty, the study says.

For example, some faculty excelled in teaching remotely and helped other faculty learn and implement the needed technology to teach remotely.  And during remote teaching, faculty met weekly to share experiences and how they were doing during the pandemic, which brought joy as they collaborated to achieve the semester’s teaching and learning objectives.

From 2019 to 2021, as full-time faculty retired or resigned, potential candidates were carefully chosen for their ability and commitment to work effectively in a team environment, possession of a positive attitude toward work, and zero tolerance for incivility.


For the next two years, accomplishments, such as weddings, births, graduations, promotions, and more were announced and celebrated at faculty meetings and shared with administration and adjunct faculty.

“Encouraging open communication and acknowledging, recognizing, and supporting faculty concerns were the first vital steps in addressing incivility in the department,” the study says. “To improve communication, faculty worked hard to include all adjunct faculty in team meetings and to disseminate all meeting minutes to full-time, part-time, and adjunct nursing faculty [as well as] support and lab staff.”


A five-question anonymous and confidential survey indicated that 73.7% of participants responded that they were experiencing joy at work.

Asked to select from a list of strategies that might contribute to bringing joy to work, participants responded:

  • A positive attitude: 92.1%
  • Collaboration with peers: 89.5%
  • Being a team player: 84.2%
  • Working toward a common goal: 78.9%
  • Celebrating each other’s accomplishments: 68.4%
  • Accountability for creating an environment of civility: 57.9%
  • Creating a zero-tolerance attitude for incivility: 52.6%
  • Hiring new faculty who are positive and team players: 50%
  • Speaking out against incivility: 36.8%

“To effectively work as a team, the nurse faculty need to focus on effective collaboration instead of competition to improve nursing programs and student success,” the study notes. “True teamwork requires the mindset that the success of any team member is a success for all and that a failure to achieve a goal is a failure of the team as a whole.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.