Bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment among intensive care unit nurses in Australia and New Zealand: An online survey

Published:October 06, 2022DOI:



      Bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment are significant problems within healthcare organisations but are often under-reported. Consequences of these behaviours within a healthcare setting are wide ranging, affecting workplace environments, personal well-being, and patient care and leading to increased staff turnover and quality of patient care and outcomes. Whilst there has been some work undertaken in the general nursing workforce, there is a dearth of evidence regarding the extent and impact of these behaviours on the nursing workforce in intensive care units (ICUs) in Australia and New Zealand.


      We aimed to determine self-reported occurrences of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment amongst ICU nurses in Australia and New Zealand.


      A prospective, cross-sectional, online survey of ICU nurses in Australia and New Zealand was undertaken in May–June 2021, distributed through formal colleges, societies, and social media. Questions included demographics and three separate sections addressing bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination.


      In 679 survey responses, the overall reported occurrences of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the last 12 months were 57.1%, 32.6%, and 1.9%, respectively. Perpetrators of bullying were predominantly nurses (59.6%, with 57.9% being ICU nurses); perpetrators of discrimination were nurses (51.7%, with 49.3% being ICU nurses); and perpetrators of sexual harassment were patients (34.6%). Respondents most commonly (66%) did not report these behaviours as they did not feel confident that the issue would be resolved or addressed.


      Determining the true extent of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment behaviours within the ICU nursing community in Australia and New Zealand is difficult; however, it is clear a problem exists. These behaviours require recognition, reporting, and an effective resolution, rather than normalisation within healthcare professions and workplace settings in order to support and retain ICU nursing staff.


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