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Bullying app reaches out to remote health professionals

Photo: CRANAplus' bullying app
Bullying is not just limited to the school playground - it’s rife throughout workplaces, particularly in the health care sector. A new bullying app has been designed to help nurses and allied health care professionals regardless of where they work, writes Karen Keast.


Bullying at work can eradicate your self-esteem and make you feel under-valued, scared, stressed, anxious and depressed.

Imagine then, what it must feel like to experience bullying while working in a remote location, without the support of family and friends at your side?

CRANAplus Bush Support Services (BSS) senior clinical psychologist Dr Annmaree Wilson says research shows about one in five people are bullied at work - and that number is much higher in some sectors, including health.

Dr Wilson says a large number of remote health care workers calling BSS’ 24-hour, seven day a week telephone counselling service report experiencing workplace bullying.

“We get all sorts of bullying activities reported to us,” she says.

“Things like withholding information, people being shamed and humiliated in front of their peers, clinical experience and expertise being undermined - all sorts of activities that are very unpleasant.

“Over a period of time it really wears down people’s sense of professional identity and their self esteem.

“The other thing that can happen in a bullying situation, which is even more acute in a remote area, is when people are socially isolated by the people around them - it’s really hard and it’s definitely an act of bullying,” she says.

“Bullying makes a huge difference - people make decisions about whether they stay in the remote area workplace or not on the basis of whether they’ve been bullied.

“It absolutely impacts on people in a very profound psychological way.”

CRANAplus, the peak body for remote health practitioners, recently launched a unique, free app for iPhone and android, to help equip remote health care professionals with a resource to combat bullying, right at their fingertips.

The BSS bullying app assists health professionals to identify bullying in a remote health workplace and outlines when they should seek help.

It also provides information on how to prevent and respond to bullying, and features resources and contacts.

“It was developed with the idea in mind that people can easily access it even when they are in remote areas,” Dr Wilson says.

“It provides people with information about what bullying is because sometimes people don’t know that they’re being bullied or they don’t quite recognise it, and it also gives them some ideas about what they can do about it if they feel they are being bullied.

“I think it’s easy to use and it’s a very practical sort of a tool that people can easily access if they’ve got it on their phones.”

Dr Wilson, a psychologist of more than 24 years who oversees a team of eight BSS psychologists, says it’s important workers experiencing bullying seek help.

“I think the first thing they need to do is get some help - we encourage people not to keep their experience a secret,” she says.

“They maybe need to contact us or talk to a counsellor or someone that they trust in order to really start articulating what’s been going on for them.”

She advises workers to also document any bullying they experience or witness in a journal, and to engage in self-care strategies in a bid to help build their resilience.

“That’s really important as well - it’s important to not start drinking too much or smoking too much as a way of coping,” she says.

“It’s important that you exercise and you look after yourself and get plenty of sleep rather than being overwhelmed by what’s going on.

“I think various policies and procedures also need to be looked at in the workplace - what’s in place to deal with bullying, and also contacting the nurses’ union, for example, and any other government organisation that might be relevant, all of which are on our app.

“The other thing that can happen in a bullying situation, which is even more acute in a remote area, is when people are socially isolated by the people around them - it’s really hard and it’s definitely an act of bullying.”

Dr Wilson says the app is just one way in which BSS provides an important backstop for health professionals working in rural and remote Australia.

She says BSS’ free telephone counselling, debriefing, psychological intervention and support service helps workers who simply want to chat about their day, those who have experienced a natural disaster or trauma, and those requiring structured, regular support.

Dr Wilson says it’s time to stop hiding bullying in the workplace.

“I think it’s really important that people name it, that they don’t keep it a secret, that they document what they are observing as well, and that it’s not allowed to become the elephant in the room,” she says.

“It’s very challenging, it’s very difficult because sometimes people are very fearful for their job - people have to be brave.”

Phone the Bush Support Services line on 1800 805 391.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords