© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aims and objectives: To explore how workplace bullying influences nurses’ abilities to provide patient care. Background: Nurses’ experiences of workplace bullying undermine nursing work environments and potentially threaten patient care. Although there is a link between nurses’ experiences of workplace bullying and poor patient care, additional exploration is necessary as current evidence remains underdeveloped and inconclusive. Design: Qualitative descriptive study. Methods: Fifteen inpatient staff nurses who have experienced workplace bullying while working in one hospital located in the southern region of the USA participated in individual, semi-structured interviews. Inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse interview transcripts in NVivo 12 software. The COREQ checklist for qualitative studies has been used in reporting this study. Results: Three themes, and respective subthemes, were generated from data analysis: (a) workplace bullying as part of the nursing work environment, (b) workplace bullying's influence on nurses and (c) workplace bullying's influence on patient care. Workplace bullying was perceived to be inherent in the nursing work environment; nurses felt that they were targets of workplace bullying because (a) they were new nurses, (b) there was an abuse of power, or (c) the nature of the work occasioned it. Nurses were mentally and emotionally influenced by the bullying. Some nurses perceived that workplace bullying did influence their ability to provide patient care; however, others did not. Conclusions: Organisations must support new nurses and manage relational attributes of the nursing work environment to reduce workplace bullying. Nursing leaders should receive education on fostering and sustaining favourable nursing work environments and be held accountable for behavioural expectations of the organisation. Relevance to clinical practice: Understanding how nurses perceive the work environment to influence their experiences of workplace bullying informs the development of organisational interventions to reduce the behaviour. Furthermore, exploring how nurses’ experiences of workplace bullying influences their abilities to provide patient care increases our understanding of workplace bullying implications.