The Bullying in Anaesthesia Registrars Survey (BARS): Does a validated questionnaire improve our understanding of bullying in Australian and New Zealand anaesthesia trainees?


Previous studies have established that bullying is a pervasive problem in healthcare. However, most investigations of bullying in anaesthesia use self-labelled survey questions in which respondents’ subjective perceptions of bullying are central in defining prevalence. This study applied the validated revised Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ-r) for a more objective assessment of bullying prevalence and types of negative behaviours experienced by anaesthesia trainees in Australia and New Zealand. An online questionnaire was distributed by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network to 990 randomly selected ANZCA trainees. Bullying prevalence was assessed using both a self-labelled survey tool and the NAQ-r, which requires respondents to select from a list of negative acts, with validated cut-offs that define bullying. Sources of bullying, impact on recipients and barriers to reporting were also examined. This design allowed comparison of the two methods for evaluating bullying prevalence. Twenty-six percent of trainees surveyed completed both bullying survey instruments. Thirty percent of these respondents self-labelled as having experienced bullying in the previous six months, with 8% reporting bullying at least monthly. With the NAQ-r, most respondents (96%) reported experiencing at least one negative act in the prior six months, with 54% reporting these on a monthly basis. The most frequent behaviours described were humiliation and intimidation. Using NAQ-r cut-offs, 36% of respondents experienced occasional bullying and 10% were victims of severe workplace bullying. The NAQ-r provides a more nuanced and objective insight into bullying faced by ANZCA trainees than do self-labelled surveys. The results of the present study provide a valuable baseline for ongoing assessment.


Bullying, anaesthesia, trainees, Negative Acts Questionnaire, NAQ-r

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