We have all heard the phrase, “nurses eat their young”. This phrase ignites another level of furiousness for me.
Let’s decipher all there is surrounding this nursing blemish.
The phrase literally means that experienced nurses are bullying, hazing, and/or inappropriately initiating new and/or student nurses.
Let’s start with this: experienced nurses deserve extraordinary respect. New nurses, experienced nurses will be your lifeline. They will be an incredible resource for you and your skills as a nurse. They deserve to be treated as their knowledge of the inner-workings of the profession deserves. There are thousands of experienced nurses that really love teaching, precepting, and mentoring new nurses. We all humbly thank you for your service to our profession and your outright generosity and kindness! This blog is not a dig at experienced nurses, but a PSA for all to protect the profession’s future.
Here’s the thing: experience, does not give any nurse the right to belittle or bully someone else. At the end of the day, our licenses allow us all do the same things. Every single nurse on the planet was a new nurse at some point. We all know what it feels like to anxiously step out onto the floor with new profound responsibility. Nursing is a CARING profession. A profession that is trustworthy and honest. We all joined nursing because we wanted to take care of people, and to do that safely we must take care of one another. At no point in my career will I ever allow my ego to get in the way of patient safety, and to be clear, it is extremely unsafe to create an uncomfortable working environment for someone else. I am completely aware that high-stakes situations can cause tension as patience with new nurses takes a backseat to patient safety when a life is on the line (and it should). I am not insinuating that new nurses should be babied because they can’t handle some tough love and criticism. I am also not insinuating that new nurses don’t make errors or that those errors should be pushed under the rug. What I am saying is that we should be careful in deciphering between constructive criticism that will make them a better nurse and bullying that will make them not want to be a nurse anymore.
Every nurse on the planet will retire someday. Don’t you want to know that you helped train and mentor new nurses to take your position at the top of the heap? Don’t you want all patients to receive the standard of care that you expected from yourself by helping others achieve it?
We can change our way of thinking from “new nurses are a pain” to “I want to help this new nurse be successful and safe” because it is the right thing to do for the people we serve.
I know that nurse’s shifts are busy and that having this attitude may create more work for you. But if you love this profession like I do then you want what is best for it. If we don’t take care of each other nobody else is going to. We are all needed in nursing, each and everyone one of us, as the shortage is only growing. There is a place for all of us. Be kind to the new nurses on your unit. Ask them if you can help them. Be critical of their safety standards in practice, but have patience when they make a mistake. You made mistakes once, too. Help them if they ask for it. You needed help once, too.
New nurses thank the experienced nurses you work with. Respect them and ask them for help. Do not let your patient safety slip because you are worried about how asking for help will look to those around you. The nursing profession will never be about us, it will always be about the patients. Do what is right for them. You do not know everything nor are you expected to, but you are expected to handle “nurses eat their young” situations like an adult and confront issues that affect patient safety head on.
Basically, I can end with this:
Experienced nurses, please try to embrace the new nurse. At the end of the long 12-hour workday he or she only wants one thing out of their career: to be like you.