Oppressed Group Behavior

The concept of "oppressed group behavior" may be helpful in understanding why nurses will lash out at one another. Nurses as a group display some characteristics of being oppressed including low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. When an individual or group not only feels but is relatively powerless compared to another, they can take it out on one another within the oppressed group, especially on someone even less powerful (Friere, 1970; Roberts, 1983).

In addition to the systemic factors described by the Joint Commission on the previous slide, incidents of verbal abuse or violence between physicians (or other authority figures) and nurses can leave nurses feeling powerless, especially when they believe their options for recourse are limited by an administrative process that will side with the more powerful abuser. The nurse's frustration and suppressed anger can end up being redirected laterally against her coworkers or downward against CNAs and other less powerful staff.

Page last reviewed: May 16, 2024