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Contemp Nurse. 2012 Aug;42(1):2-10. doi: 10.5172/conu.2012.42.1.2.

Prevalence of bullying at work and its association with self-esteem scores in a Spanish nurse sample.

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Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, King Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain.



Bullying has been recognized as an important and increasing problem for nurses, who are faced with different kinds of bullying. Recent research has suggested a possible association between bullying and low self-esteem.


To determine the prevalence of bullying at work in a sample of Spanish nurses; to examine the association between bullying and self-esteem; and to investigate the prognostic factors that determine bullying at work.


A descriptive survey study was developed to represent the population of Spanish nurses.


The sample consisted of 538 nurses who met the inclusion criteria of having worked for a minimum of one year in adult or paediatric services in the public or private heath care system of Principado de Asturias-Spain.


The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE) and the Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ) standardized for Spain were used to measure self-esteem and bullying behaviours respectively.


Our results show that about one in five nurses (17%) experienced subjective bullying, and 8% of these cases reported weekly or daily bullying. The negative acts reported most frequently in bullied and non-bullied nurses were work-related bullying behaviours, such as 'Being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines' (2.71 SD = 1.33). However, bullied nurses reported significantly higher rates in all questions of the NAQ, and self-reported bullying was significantly related to low self-esteem (χ(2) = 109; p < 0.001).


Prevalence of self-reported bullying is high among Spanish nurses and is clearly associated with higher exposure to bullying behaviours at work and lower levels of self-esteem.

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