Horizontal aggression among Manitoba general duty/staff registered nurses, a descriptive study

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Quick, Gayle R.
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Utilizing a self-report survey guided by the critical incident technique (Flanagan, 1954), 500 general duty/staff registered nurses were randomly selected to gather retrospective, descriptive data on the phenomenon of horizontal aggression--a form of workplace aggression that nurses both perpetrate and endure. Nursing is, and always has been, a female dominated occupation with a feminine identity. Horizontal aggression is believed to be a behavioral response to the oppression that women, and by extension nurses, experience in the patriarchal society and the health care system. A conceptual model of women's and nurses' oppression was constructed for use in this study following a review of literature from the domains of nursing, sociology, psychology, and management. The findings of this study included that targets believed horizontal aggression occurred frequently, that perpetrators had a pattern of behaving aggressively toward other nurses, and that perpetrators chose their targets because they were conveniently available or were estimated to be safe. The majority of targets worked less hours than their perpetrator and were younger and had less seniority as a nurse. Aggressive behaviors reported by targets were predominately verbal, active, and direct. The most common verbal behaviors were being rude and non-constructive criticism. Targets described a variety of antecedent factors to the aggression they had experienced as well as reasons that they were chosen by perpetrators. Many of these entities supported aspects of the conceptual model. There were a variety of actions taken by targets following an incident of horizontal aggression. The majority of these were passive attempts to cope and/or avoid the effects of horizontal aggression. These effects included negative physical and emotional effects for targets, and negative effects on patient care. This last group of findings indicate that the phenomenon of horizontal aggression is a serious workplace issue for nurses and warrants future study.