Hazing. The word conjures images of frat boys pranking freshman pledges all in good fun.
Of course, we know that all too often there is nothing fun or innocent about fraternity hazing on college campuses. Fraternity hazing often involves excessive drinking and illicit drug use, violent physical abuse, and sexual assault. The James Vivenzio whistle blower case against Penn State shows the importance of shining a light on the dark and secretive — and incredibly dangerous — world of fraternity hazing.
Fraternity hazing may be the best known example of this type of organized bullying, but the reality is that hazing takes place far more frequently than we might realize and in many, varied settings.
In recent months, there have been news stories about tragic deaths during violent hazing involving a college swim team and a college marching band. The Tom Hanks-Jack Nicholson movie, “A Few Good Men,” dramatically revealed violent hazing in among members of the United States Marines.
Now comes a fascinating but disturbing expose in Marie Claire magazine about rampant hazing that takes place among . . . .wait for it . . . Emergency Department nurses. [link to the article] According to the April 2016 article, hazing and bullying among nurses is rampant and sometimes even affects the safety of patients. Sometimes, the hazing even results in death.
Author Alexandra Robbins relies on her own interviews of hundreds of nurses as well as numerous studies and government statistics to support her compelling portrayal of nurse hazing. The American Nurses Association (ANA), one of the leading professional organizations for nurses, refers to nurse hazing and bullying as “a type of initiation to determine if the new nurse is tough enough to survive.”
Nurses, perhaps especially ER nurses, are indeed in some very tough and trying circumstances at work, caring for patients in life threatening situations, triaging multiple patients during a mass trauma, and serving on the front line with patients and families facing life and death. But hazing exacts a heavy price.
Robbins cites federal government data that shows one in three nurses quits her job because of bullying and hazing and that this, perhaps more than any factor, accounts for a worldwide nursing shortage. Since one form of nurse hazing involves failing to communicate important information from nurse to nurse during the ongoing care of a patient, hazing can also put patient well-being at grave risk.
A 2014 report from the Joint Commission, the leading accreditation organization for hospitals, found that the majority of cases involving an unexpected patient death or permanent disability was caused by a communication failure. Could nurse hazing be directly responsible for these tragic outcomes?
Hazing can be a deadly and dangerous business. The group bonds that can form and grow stronger through hazing rituals are simply not worth the risk of serious and even life-threatening danger to those involved. Whether hazing takes place in the basement of a fraternity house or in an athletic facility locker room or even in a hospital emergency department, there needs to be more public attention on this widespread social problem.
For more information about the Vivenzio/Penn State case and about other resources relating to hazing and campus violence, take a few moments to check out our firm’s issue website, www.EndHazingNow.com.