Incivility in Nursing: Cultivating Healthful Environments

Definition of the Issue

Commonly, an act of incivility is defined by rudeness or offensive and unprofessional behavior. Such behaviors often have a disruptive effect on the work of the team and may lead to a variety of negative consequences. Incivility may take the form of name-calling, loud and aggressive argument, inappropriate gestures, and in worst cases, it may involve violence and abuse (Porath & Pearson, 2013). Incivility should be avoided in all cases, as it may hurt many members of the staff and the workflow overall.

Importance of the Issue to Nursing

Nursing is a task that requires utmost professionalism and discipline because nurses are expected to provide care to patients. Any uncivil behavior witnessed by the patient may lead to a loss of trust. However, it may have an even larger impact on the nurses and their peers. On the individual level, people may start feeling uncomfortable around an uncivil person, pushing them closer to the state of burnout.

Nursing can be a highly stressful job, and whenever uncivil behavior is present, the amount of stress that a person experiences, grows even more (Campana & Hammoud, 2015). The microsystem of the work environment also suffers, as disruptive people prevent others from performing to the maximum of their potential. For example, nursing students that behave in an uncivil fashion may lead to lesser information retention for the rest of the class (Sauer, Hannon, & Beyer, 2017). For the nursing profession as a whole, it may be a very damaging activity because it leads to lesser efficiency, higher occurrence of mistakes (De Villers & Cohn, 2017).

Example of Incivility

I have previously experienced incivility at my place of work. While the majority of the time, the hospital I work at is too busy to allow for incivility to occur, last September an incident between two of my colleagues caused a great disturbance in the workplace. The incident began with an argument between two nurses. The argument was focused on the political predispositions of the participants.

At first, it was not disruptive, because both nurses were relatively quiet and civil. However, after a few minutes, the argument got heated, and they began loudly yelling at each other. One of the nurses started using extremely harsh language toward the other. It was impossible not to hear them, and whenever we tried to stop them, they only became louder. The pair ignored all interaction until the nurse manager arrived to check on the disturbance.

His strict tone of voice made the uncivil behavior stop immediately. Despite the end of the incident, its effects were felt weeks after. Neither of the nurses was able to continue working with the other, so their shifts were aligned in such a way that such occurrences do not happen again. They never resolved their disagreement, and both became harder to talk to. The work environment started to be more stressful, as the unpleasant feeling of conflict became associated with the room where the argument took place. I also noticed that my colleagues started communicating much less often, perhaps to avoid similar events.

Common Strategies for Creating a Healthful Environment

To create a healthful environment, the staff must make sure to prevent incivility. Three common strategies need to be implemented to address the issue of incivility. The first is to raise awareness and perception of incivility. In some cases, uncivil behavior becomes commonplace because people treat it as a normal occurrence. Such attitudes can create additional incivility in the workplace. By becoming aware of how such behavior affects people and their workplace, nurses are likely to stop treating it so casually (Clark & Kenski, 2017).

The second strategy is to establish the boundary of what type of behavior is considered uncivil. Some people may act in an uncivil fashion due to ignorance of what is civil and what is not. When this line is defined, staff members should become more careful in their behavior (“Decreasing workplace incivility,” 2016).

The third strategy involves the implementation of higher accountability for incivility. Since incivility affects the work of staff as a whole, those who are involved in uncivil behavior should be held accountable for their actions. Often, such accountability is provided by a system of penalties to those who disrupt the workplace. For more dangerous behavior, such as physical or sexual abuse, punitive actions often involve firing because the perpetrator is too dangerous to keep employed (Simpson, 2016). An environment created by these strategies should be more healthful and pleasant to work in, than those where uncivil behavior is overlooked.

Specialized Strategies

My specialty track is the family nurse practitioner. My primary strategy would be to spread awareness of how uncivil behavior affects individuals and the workplace as a whole (Simpson, 2016). My specialty allows me to be involved in a variety of nursing collectives, which would give me a larger pool of people that I can inform on this issue. I would also make sure to create a very clear line between civil and uncivil behavior.

While it would not guarantee a dramatic decrease in incivility, it should partially deter people from doing accidental uncivil acts (Clark & Kenski, 2017). As with the first strategy, I would use the flexibility of my advanced role to spread the message to as many nursing departments as I can. Since the message is universal, no special considerations would need to be made for different departments. These actions, coupled with an emphasis on professionalism, should create a healthful environment for efficient nurses who do not experience additional stress.


Incivility is one of the most damaging types of activities that can occur in the workplace. People may use inappropriate language when referring to somebody. They may start yelling or even abuse another college. Such acts of bullying have been the focus of attention of researchers for a long time, and yet it is still a relatively common occurrence. Incivility is extremely harmful to nursing because it may lead to such negative outcomes as an increase in nurse burnout, loss of productivity, additional errors when working with documents, and a variety of others.

I have previously seen a highly uncivil argument at work that created a much more difficult environment to work in. However, if certain strategies are utilized, they may remain healthful. By making sure that people are aware of the effects of uncivil behavior, the distinguishing line of what is civil and what is not, as well as high accountability for their actions, they should be more than capable of avoiding issues. As a family nurse practitioner may be a part of almost any team, and to make work better, I will make sure that the staff is aware of the issues that incivility brings, as well as what constitutes it.


Campana, K. L., & Hammoud, S. (2015). Incivility from patients and their families: Can organisational justice protect nurses from burnout? Journal of Nursing Management, 23(6), 716–725. Web.

Clark, C. M., & Kenski, D. (2017). Promoting civility in the OR: An ethical omperative. AORN Journal, 105(1), 60–66. Web.

De Villers, M. J., & Cohn, T. (2017). Performance potential special: Incivility in nursing practice. Nursing Management, 48(10), 42. Web.

Porath, C., & Pearson, C. (2013). The price of incivility. Harvard Business Review, 91(1–2), 114–21, 146.

Sauer, P. A., Hannon, A. E., & Beyer, K. B. (2017). Peer incivility among prelicensure nursing students: A call to action for nursing faculty. Nurse Educator, 42(6), 281. Web.

Simpson, K. R. (2016). Incivility, bullying, and workplace violence: New recommendations for nurses and their employers from the American Nurses Association. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 41(1), 68. Web.