It's September. Pre-nursing students have become nursing students and new grads are either starting new jobs or are well into orientation. And there seems to be a plethora of new posts claiming that nurses eat their young, that the poster gets no respect, that their workplace is full of bullies, that "everyone knows that nursing is mostly women and women are caddy," that the senior nurses on their units "owe it to me" to "take me under their wing and train me" and other claims that are "truth adjacent."
We've all seen the threads, or the post within a seemingly inoffensive thread:
"Yep -- It's true. Nurses eat their young. I know because I've been eaten."
"Newbie here, and I get no respect."
"Respect should not have to be earned; those old cows should just give me respect."
"Nurses are supposed to be compassionate and kind, so where is the compassion for MEEEE?"
"No negative posts. If you can't say something nice, don't bother to respond."
Whether they know it or not, these posters are revealing far more about themselves than they are about the alleged bullies in their workplace.
As a Crusty Old bat, preceptor and charge nurse, I owe it to the new employees on my unit to treat them with basic human courtesy and kindness. Respect, however, is different and when the word is used as defined, must be earned. (Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.) When you're new, we don't know anything about your abilities or qualities, and the achievement we know about -- that you graduated from nursing school and passed the licensing exam -- is something we've all done. As you work with us for awhile and we get to know you, you will either earn respect for your abilities, qualities and achievements . . . Or you won't.
Disrespect is defined as lack of respect, scorn, disregard, disdain or contempt. I often see early posts from a new member complaining that their brand new colleagues, preceptors, nursing instructors or some poor nurse who has been saddled with them for a shift lacks respect for them. The posts are dripping with contempt for the nasty old preceptor or addled older colleague who doesn't totally "get" their awesomeness and give them the deference they feel is their due. Posts claiming that "nurses eat their young" while describing said nurses in derogatory terms, claiming that they KNEW the workplace was full of bullies and they've been proven correct because they're currently being followed around by mean old bullies, or that "they should take me under their wing and train me" while verbally excoriating the very nurses they want to mentor them all tell me that the poster doesn't understand workplace dynamics and relationships and is having difficulty getting along with their co-workers. That tells me far more about THEM than it does about the co-workers.
Like many of us, I've taken the time to write responses to some of these posts, hoping to point the poster in the right direction or encourage them to engage in some introspection before concluding that the problem is all in the other person they're complaining about. Some of those posts are long and detailed. I've thought about the original post and about my response for hours, sometimes, before I sit down to type out my response. And then the poster goes off on me, because my answer wasn't the one they were looking for.
To those posters: AN has a wealth of information, thousands of wise old nurses and a metric ton of valuable advice. But you have to be ready to accept it. When you're new, you don't deserve disrespect, but you haven't earned any respect either. You deserve, and are likely getting, the basic courtesy we all owe other human beings. If your co-workers don't LIKE you, that's something else again, and this place can be very informative about why that may be and what you can do to change it. Nurses don't eat their young, but we do give negative feedback. Our job is too important and the consequences to our patients potentially too dire for me NOT to tell you when you're screwing up. If you cannot accept any criticism, you don't belong in nursing.
The senior nurses who mentor or precept you deserve your respect, and you won't GET any respect from them until you GIVE it. Understand that no matter what the nurse in your clinical said, you aren't helpful and don't ease our workload any. If we've taken on the responsibility of teaching you, you have tripled our workload. Be grateful for each and every nurse who gives you that gift. And understand why some seasoned nurses just cannot offer that at this time. Try to exhibit the kindness and compassion for those nurses that you expect FROM them.
Nurses don't eat their young, aren't predominately bullies and don't owe you. But if you're respectful and grateful, you might very well be the recipient of someone's best tips, time savers and teaching.
I can treat you "respectfully," but I will not have respect for your knowledge, your practice, your critical thinking skills, etc. until you demonstrate that you deserve it. I EXPECT that you will come out of nursing school lacking experience. I COUNT on the fact that you will make mistakes. I PREDICT that you will not be able to answer correctly every question put forth to you.
All that said, I am watching to see if you learn from your mistakes, show evidence that you have been doing some homework on your off hours, and demonstrate that your critical thinking skills are improving as a result of being challenged. I will be even more impressed when you show that you appreciate the mental exercises your preceptor puts you through, stressful that they may be. That tells me that you are going to rise to the occasion and that you are intellectually invigorated by the challenge. If I see any sign that you think you know it all as the result of having "months of practice in clinicals," notice a defensive posture to constructive criticism, sense a lack of accountability for your mistakes, or witness evidence that you believe you are entitled to make errors with zero correction and discussion, then you will never receive my respect for you as a professional. If you don't show that you get that you don't know what you don't know, and you don't give respect where it is due, then you aren't worthy of the same.
Most new grads I've been around do seem to get all this. But there is always one who shows up thinking that they deserve the same admiration for their professional practice as a seasoned veteran, and they just end up looking ridiculous.
As for NETY, like most stereotypes, it never would have gained such traction if it weren't based in reality to some degree. I've seen a few preceptors who abuse the privilege in order to make themselves feel powerful and to soothe their insecurities. But they really are also few and far between. NETY has become the default accusation because it's ever so much easier than introspection and acknowledgment of fallibility.
Last edit by Horseshoe on Sep 8, '16