AU’s 2021 3MT winner: Jiun-yi Zullo
Most anyone you ask will agree that front-line health-care workers are heroes. So why is it they face so much verbal abuse while trying to do their jobs?
That was the question Jiun-yi Zullo, a graduate learner in the Master of Nursing program, set out to answer in her presentation for the Athabasca University (AU) 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition on March 16, entitled “Emergency Nurses Experiences of Occupational Disappointment.”
She took the top prize of $1,000 cash and earned the right to represent AU at the Western Regional 3MT® hosted by Athabasca University on May 13, 2021.
Stacey Fenwick from the Doctor of Business Administration program earned the $500 second-place prize for her presentation, “Collaboration and Stakeholder Performance Measurements To Solve “Wicked” Social Problems,” while David Dunwoody from the Master of Science in Information Systems program won the $250 third-place prize with his presentation, “Finding Your Perfect Research Articles in a Sea of 1’s and 0’s.”
Twenty graduate students from across all faculties at AU competed against one another, each presenting a summarized version of their research. Watch all the AU 3MT presentations online.
Zullo’s presentation delved into the disheartenment emergency nurses, who have a desire to help people, feel as they enter the field only to be faced with “persistent unaddressed verbal abuse.”
Today’s hero, yesterday’s...
Zullo began her presentation with a vivid description of the hardships emergency nurses face in the era of COVID-19. Detailing the reality of trying to help those gasping for their last breath in full quarantine suits and N-95 masks, she said emergency nurses are what we all unanimously regard as heroes. As the presentation continued, she revealed what life was really like for today’s heroes prior to the pandemic.
She said she was intrigued by her topic because she has been an emergency nurse since 2010, working with some of the best emergency nurses and medicine across Toronto, Ont., and the surrounding areas. At that time, she worked in an environment where nurses often experienced verbal abuse, and it was clear that they were being affected yet nothing was being done about it.
While conducting research, Zullo came across the concept of occupational disappointment, describing it as, “that feeling of disheartenment in your choice of career that nurses feel as response to persistent, unaddressed verbal abuse from patients and/or their visitors. It’s the imbalance between what you expected and what reality is and often, nurses entering the emergency department are unaware of this culture of nursing.”
Her research found that the persistent coping needed to deal with occupational disappointment lowers the level of care nurses provide by focusing more on just “completing the task in an effort to avoid potentially challenging situations.”
One of the largest challenges emergency nurses face is the lack of support, or even acknowledgement, of the verbal abuse that they are met with in a healthy way. In turn, they are not provided the opportunity to talk about it effectively, or with a proactive mindset. Leadership within the nursing community does not address the verbal abuse they openly endure, and the fast-paced working environment only allows emergency nurses a quick vent with a passing colleague.
“It’s the imbalance between what you expected and what reality is and often, nurses entering the emergency department are unaware of this culture of nursing.”– Jiun-yi Zullo
Policies and procedures
Zullo said there have been some improvements made, with concise signage indicating abuse towards staff will not be tolerated since 2020. This year, nurses have received personal panic buttons and staff are encouraged to report abuse or aggression from patients/visitors through an online portal. But it doesn’t always help.
“Though signs are put up, often their messaging continues to be ignored by staff and patients alike,” she said. “Panic buttons only work to the boundaries of the department, yet nurses can be victims of abuse in the cafeteria, en route to their lockers, or even in the diagnostic imaging areas of the hospital.”
She also said adequate time to report every incident is not provided due to the volume of work emergency nurses experience.
Stunned by the win
Zullo pursued the Master of Nursing program four years ago because she had a desire to increase her foundational knowledge of nursing, and to continue her education after seven years in the emergency nursing field. She said she was stunned by the win, adding she can’t take all the kudos herself.
“My successes are the product of support from my supervisor, Dr. Lynn Corcoran, who has provided expertise and guidance from the beginning,” she said.
As for her experience with AU, she said the experience has been overwhelmingly positive—she appreciates not only the ability to further her educational goals while still having time for family and work commitments, but also the high-quality instruction at AU.
“The calibre of scholars who have instructed me and nurtured my growth has always been so impressive. I’ve been fortunate,” Zullo said.