Do nurses eat their young? And what to do if it looks like you’re the next meal~

As a new nurse, I think I can vouch for all new nurses by saying that we have all heard that “nurses eat their young” . This implies that all older nurses treat younger nurses with disdain, are not helpful to their newer coworkers, and often let them drown in a sea of overwhelming work. In my experience thus far , I must say that this saying isn’t entirely true.

I have heard horror stories of older nurses bullying younger nurses to the point of quitting. Thankfully, I have experienced nothing but support on my floor from the older nurses but there are definitely a few things to keep in mind when facing the realities of being new to nursing.

1. You are new and still learning – this will get you eye rolls

In nursing school I remember often being told that it will take you at least a year (if not more) to become comfortable in your nursing practice. Eight months into nursing I have to agree with this. There are so many things I still don’t know how to do and there are moments when I don’t think of a solution to a problem as quickly as I wish I would . Sometimes you will ask a “dumb” question and you will see judgement thrown your way for asking that question. My advice- bite the bullet. It is way better to ask that dumb question than to practice unsafely. Plus, your journey in nursing is about YOU becoming a better nurse. What other people think of you plays no role in this.

2. Is it normal human behavior or is it bullying?

Being a little annoyed because a younger nurse asked you something “dumb” isn’t completely abnormal. We all have off days, and sometimes when I’m given a student even I get frustrated with how little they know (and it wasn’t that long ago that I was a student!). However, when faced with this I have to pause and reel that frustration back in and answer the question. I want these students to know more, just like I want to learn more from my superiors. Now, if I were to go out of my way to tell the student they should know these things or even call them names because they didn’t know, then this becomes bullying. If this happens to you I would suggest telling your manager or approaching HR about the situation. No one deserves to go to work in fear that they may be bullied . If your workplace maintains an atmosphere of bullying towards new graduates , I really would suggest finding another place to work. Incivility towards nurses of any age can distract people from work and is an accident waiting to happen.

3. Embrace the mama nurses

As often as we hear these terrible stories about older nurses being mean to the young nurses, I often find the complete opposite more frequently . Older nurses who want nothing more than for you to succeed and are always a resource on the floor do exist, and I call them mama nurses. Some of my mama nurses have given me the best advice and are always there to show me nursing skills if I am about to do something I have never done on the floor before. Seek out these nurses when you first get a new job, you won’t regret it.


In conclusion, those evil nurses that want you to fail do exist- but they are not the norm and they are bullies. You may feel powerless in facing a situation like that but you always have the ability to report these nurses. Don’t go into your first nursing job thinking this is the norm. There are plenty of mama nurses (and other nurses on the same level as you) who want to see you succeed. Focus your time and energy on these people, and remember to have a strong sense of self.

Did you work in a place where the atmosphere was toxic and filled with bullies? Do you have a favorite mama nurse/ what did he or she say to you that inspired you? Post below 🙂

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