Case 026 - Nursing Home

It is just over a year that I last worked in the job I worked where I was bullied. I worked in a Nursing Home for nearly two years, of which at least 18 months I was singled out and continually harassed for just being me.

I was a registered nurse and I consider myself to be a caring reliable loving and honest person who loved looking after the residents of the aged care facility. The Director of Nursing took a set against me and within the first 3 months there I started receiving isolated attacks, I was yelled at and spoken to sarcastically. Most staff were treated this way but there always was someone that she took special interest in and she continually harassed them. I was it and the person I replaced, I later found out used to cop it too, she left with stress etc after nine years in that position! I could not do anything right in the eyes of the Director of Nursing and would even get abused at for things that had nothing to do with me and mostly pathetic petty non-events.

Some times I'd get abused for doing something that the Director of Nursing wanted me to do, yet I did not know that she expected me to do a certain something. After being abused I would find out that she wanted me to do a certain duty regularly. The next time I went to do my newly assigned duty I would get abused for doing it. If I did do it I'd get into trouble if I didn't I'd still get into trouble. I would then be expected to ask her if I was to do it, then I'd get into trouble for asking her and then would get yelled at "do I have to do everything", if I took the initiative to do it I'd get abused.

In the end I just refused to do certain things to avoid further abuse but would still be in trouble for not doing it. This would be OK if it were always over trivial matters but I am talking nursing procedures. I would have my work undermined by her not passing on relevant information eg doctor's orders, then I would be accused of being incompetent. This was dangerous. When ever I approached the Director of Nursing about her abuse and informed it was not tolerable, the abuse would settle and she would be "nice" for a few weeks, then gradually it started and became more nasty and personal.

Every day I worked with her which was 3 days a week it would be horrible. Everyone knew that when I was working with her it would be an awful day, because of the way she treated me. She would come to work and would greet the other staff and either ignore or glare or yell at me in comparison. Everyone walked on what we termed "eggshells". Other staff would cop her wrath at any time. But I was always singled out and would cop it day in, day out! Because of her hatred for me she would deny the residents care, just to prove a point in a warped way that she was "right" and I was "wrong"! This was hard for me to take because the residents care should never have been compromised because of the feelings she had towards me. This went against my integrity, my love for the residents and my value of human life.

It was very demanding on my health the constant picking and belittling in front of staff, residents, relatives and visitors, eventually took it's toll. I found that I was unable to do my work effectively and eventually I made a stand. After an incident where she had 4 nurses go and pull down and remake 6 beds I'd made earlier because the pillows were so called "ruffled", I got to the point of humiliation. The nurses were disgusted by her abuse to me and this one event topped all the other events over the past 18 months where I couldn't take any more. The nurses supported me, over that time there were some in their fear of her that they became runners for her and bullied me and others at times. Yet they still supported me if only verbally. I wrote a letter to the board of the home, which I'd thought about doing a year before but hesitated because the Director of Nursing and her husband were members of and part owners of the home.

I got to the point where I could not stand it any more and I really did not care if I lost my job. I remember saying that I would rather live as a pauper than put up with that bullying one more day. Well I wrote that letter and the board to this day have never acknowledged receipt of the letter or done anything about the bullying. A month later I was advised to do a report for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. I did so and nine staff immediately supported me and the report from the officer was terrific supporting my allegations of workplace bullying. However she is still there and I am not. My health had been severely affected and on the 6th September 2000 I went off work with severe situational depression. I went on workcover and then resigned from the home in February this year. I had another job 1 day a week which I lost afterwards because I was too sick to work I lost a new relationship with a man who did not understand the effects of the bullying on me, my hobbies were null and void.

I could not go shopping or in crowds for five months I had no social life. I became financially crippled due to the loss of income. I had horrible nightmares where I was held captive and even shot the dreams were of terror with Nazis holding me prisoner, I even watched a baby getting shot, I felt so defenceless. Now the nightmares have eased but occur when I see her or her husband (he was also bossy with me at times at work as he was the maintenance man).

Another staff member who copped the abuse before I came and then on and off during the time I was there also went off on workcover due to depression etc. Several staff that left before me who copped it have talked to me of their similar experiences but were able to leave because they found other employment or were supported by their husbands work.

I am neither married nor was I able to find other employment inside or out of nursing. I started looking for work 3 months after I started there. The staff still working there tell me they still walk on eggshells but things are much better since the investigation, because the Director of Nursing knows that she is walking a fine line.

The staff will ring me or see me in town and tell me how pleased they are that I was the one to make a stand and brought some peace to the place finally. They are very supportive knowing that it has affected my health so much and for so long.

Today one year later I am still having bouts of depression. Financially I am in jeopardy, I am unable to work, I have the occasional nightmare and have anxiety attacks. I still have not resumed my hobbies and my social life is poor. However I am so much better off than I was this time last year. Anything is better than being bullied. I am not finished with the bullying case legally. This person has broken the law as well as the confidence and financial and health and wellbeing of not only myself but many others. All I ever wanted was to work in peace and safety and that was my right and it was violated. Now I am trying so hard to pick up the pieces.