Experiences With Workplace Bullying Among Athletic Trainers in the Collegiate Setting
Weuve C., Pitney WA., Martin M., Mazerolle SM. J Athl Train; 2014;49(5):696-705
Take Home Message: Among athletic trainers working in a college setting 14% reported that they were bullied, and 20% reported that they witnessed bullying. There were no differences between who experienced bullying, but most of the bullying perpetrators were males with the majority being coaches.
Workplace bullying has been linked to decreased productivity, increased absences, and causing people to leave their job. Workplace bullying has been studied among other healthcare professions; however, there is no information pertaining to work place bullying in the athletic training field. Therefore, the authors examined the prevalence of workplace bullying in the collegiate setting, where they investigated who experiences more bullying, whether the workplace position is associated with bullying, and sought to identify the personnel involved in the acts of bullying. Seven hundred and twenty-three athletic trainers from around the United States working in a collegiate setting completed the survey (24.1% response rate, 46% women, average age of 38 years, average 14 years of athletic training experience). The survey consisted of 3 components: demographic data (e.g., degree hold, title of position) the Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised (NAQ-R), and a series of yes/no questions expanding on the NAQ-R survey, which was developed by the authors (e.g., have you ever witnessed workplace bullying). Fourteen percent of the respondents reported that they experienced bullying in the athletic training setting. These respondents identified the most common perpetrators: 39% were coaches, 18% were supervising athletic trainers, and 18% were categorized as other (administrators, general athletic employees, faculty co-workers, and academic supervisors). One hundred and forty-two athletic trainers (20%) reported that they witnessed bullying situations. Similarly, most of the perpetrators were coaches (39%) or administrators (33%). There was no difference in the number of males (56%) and females (44%) who experienced bullying; however, more bullying perpetrators were males (74%). Additionally there was no difference in experiencing bullying based on level of education or position held.
Athletic trainers need to interact with many individuals in addition to athletes such as physicians, coaches, and administrators. If the communication is tainted with an act of workplace bullying this will interfere with the athletic trainer’s job and care for the athlete. This study indicated that 14% of athletic trainers working in a college setting experience bullying and 20% have witnessed bullying. There were no differences in experiencing bullying based on sex, position, or level of education, which suggests that bullying does not discriminate. In comparison to other healthcare fields (e.g., 33-83% of nurses experience bullying), athletic training is fairly low, which may be attributed to the teamwork and camaraderie that is a common feature within this profession. The authors conclude that in the athletic training field there is an overall mutual respect; however, the interaction is not always friendly. Medical professionals should be cognizant of bullying and foster an environment that encourages open communication and collaboration. The authors suggested that all athletic trainers should examine their own behaviors and the behaviors around them. If a problem is detected then this should be reported. Preventing bullying can have great benefits for the clinicians’ quality of life and for the quality of care they can provide.
Questions for Discussion: Have you experienced workplace bullying? How do you handle potentially unpleasant bullying situations?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban
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