Older Student, Unprofessional Nurse During Clinical

  1. After many, many years (20!) of "thinking about it", I finally decided at age 45 to go back to school for nursing. My mom was a nurse for 50 years and even though I have two other bachelor's degrees, the timing was never right for the commitment of nursing school. Now that I have two kids in college and my other two kids are high school aged, I decided that this was my time.

    I will graduate one year from now from one of the remaining hospital based diploma programs (Our area is actually FULL of them) and then I will immediately bridge to a BSN after just two semesters because of my other degrees. I am currently a 4.0 student.

    Because I am in a hospital based program, we get A LOT of clinical experience (it's the reason I chose this type of program) and so far, my experiences have been great and have only solidified my desire to be a nurse. I am loving every second of it.

    However, this week I experiences something I didn't expect. I half expected rude nurses or the dreaded "eat their young" nurses (which would be kind of tough on me because I'm older than many of them!) and I wasn't so worried about that because I've been dealing with mean girls since long before the movie.....but I didn't expect to hear nurses talking so badly about their PATIENTS!

    I was sitting at the nurses desk looking up my patient's meds for my upcoming med pass. The nurse sitting next to me was kabitzing with the other nurse. These are well established nurses. And the one nurse starts complaining about the patient down the floor being a ******* **** (but she said the words) because he was complaining about his pain following a prostatectomy (this is a urology floor). Then she went on to say that the wife reported that the patient was a Marine and so she determined that he was the wussiest Marine she'd ever seen. For 5 minutes...full of swearing and making fun of this patient. The other nurse listened, and laughed. But did not join in the name calling. But she sure didn't condemn it either.

    I. Was. Stunned. I said nothing because I am a student, but I did ask my clinical instructor about it because the family was walking around and could have SO EASILY heard this nurses comments.

    So, my question to you from a very naive nursing student....Is this the norm? Will I need to toughen up? Should I have said something to to the nurse? Should I have told my instructor as I did? I thought it was waaaayyyy out of line, but then I started remembering that they tell us that they are teaching us to graduate nursing school and when you are on the floor it's a whole other ballgame.

    If this is the ballgame, I'm not playing that game. I may not have any friends on the floor, but I'm not going to participate in that kind of talk about patients. I get venting or expressing frustration about a difficult client, but please tell me that is not the norm....

    So what say you, oh wise nurses?
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 18
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  2. Visit Jenbripsu profile page

    About Jenbripsu

    Joined: Jul '17; Posts: 46; Likes: 111

    112 Comments

  3. by   Sour Lemon
    Yes, nurses occasionally talk bad about patients. Patients talk bad about nurses, too. Nurses talk bad about other nurses. Elephants make fun of zebras. Blah, blah, blah. It's not something I'd concern myself with- especially as a student. People are people and do step out of line from time to time. You will do it too, although maybe in a different manner.
  4. by   Wuzzie
    You do you and everything will be fine.
  5. by   vanilla bean
    A few thoughts: 1. You have not even walked a tenth of a tenth of a mile in the shoes of a nurse, so try to curb the knee jerk judgements; 2. There are jerks in every profession (not saying the nurse that got your hackles up is a jerk; maybe/maybe not) and you will need to learn to negotiate that personality landscape; 3. You are under no obligation to engage in any type of behavior that offends your principles or sensibilities, so don't; 4. At this early stage of the game, I think you should cut your (future) nursing peers some slack and unless you see something taking place that's endangering another human, just let them do them and you do you.
  6. by   Double-Helix
    The behavior you describe is definitely unprofessional. Is it the norm? No. But healthcare providers do judge their patients (and other healthcare professionals- as Lemon said) and verbalize those judgments- although perhaps not in such a vulgar manner. You'll be guilty of judging a patient too, eventually, whether you share that judgment with your colleagues or not.
    Reporting this to your clinical instructor was an appropriate response. I certainly wouldn't say anything to the nurse since you are a guest on her unit and both you and your classmates benefit from maintaining positive (or at least neutral) relationships with the staff. In your own practice, if you make it clear to your colleagues that you don't tolerate that kind of talk (by not participating and walking away when it occurs), they will stop sharing it with you pretty quickly. As long as you do participate in other conversation with them, get to know them, be social, polite and helpful, it won't affect your ability to make friends.
  7. by   Wuzzie
    Wait!!! You reported them? Somehow I missed that. Oh geez I hope your clinical instructor had the good sense not to take it any further.
  8. by   Jenbripsu
    Quote from vanilla bean
    A few thoughts: 1. You have not even walked a tenth of a tenth of a mile in the shoes of a nurse, so try to curb the knee jerk judgements; 2. There are jerks in every profession (not saying the nurse that got your hackles up is a jerk; maybe/maybe not) and you will need to learn to negotiate that personality landscape; 3. You are under no obligation to engage in any type of behavior that offends your principles or sensibilities, so don't; 4. At this early stage of the game, I think you should cut your (future) nursing peers some slack and unless you see something taking place that's endangering another human, just let them do them and you do you.
    I don't think I had a "Knee Jerk reaction". What I experienced was not what I expected so I simply asked if this is the norm - because if it is, then I need to change my perspective. When I am on the floor I go out of my way to assist the nurses and do all that I can. I am kind, responsible and do my job and when I'm done with that - I help them with anything else that they need. I get along fine with all of the nurses that I've worked with. I am not putting anything on any future nurses that I work with. I am however, learning to navigate the nursing floor and simply wanted to know if this type of talk about patients is normal.

    I may not have walked as a nurse, but I've been a professional in the workforce the last 25 years and my mother was a nurse for 50 years. This is not how I have ever behaved in a professional environment.
  9. by   Jenbripsu
    Quote from Wuzzie
    Wait!!! You reported them? Somehow I missed that. Oh geez I hope your clinical instructor had the good sense not to take it any further.
    I didn't formally report anyone. I asked my clinical instructor whether this was normal conversation or not without naming the nurse.
  10. by   Jenbripsu
    Quote from Double-Helix
    The behavior you describe is definitely unprofessional. Is it the norm? No. But healthcare providers do judge their patients (and other healthcare professionals- as Lemon said) and verbalize those judgments- although perhaps not in such a vulgar manner. You'll be guilty of judging a patient too, eventually, whether you share that judgment with your colleagues or not.
    Reporting this to your clinical instructor was an appropriate response. I certainly wouldn't say anything to the nurse since you are a guest on her unit and both you and your classmates benefit from maintaining positive (or at least neutral) relationships with the staff. In your own practice, if you make it clear to your colleagues that you don't tolerate that kind of talk (by not participating and walking away when it occurs), they will stop sharing it with you pretty quickly. As long as you do participate in other conversation with them, get to know them, be social, polite and helpful, it won't affect your ability to make friends.
    I did not say anything BECAUSE I know that I am a guest on the unit. I go out of my way to make my being there be a benefit to the nurses. I've worked with some really great nurses from whom I have learned a lot. This nurse is always kind of crabby and rude. It didn't bother me whatsoever until I heard her discussing this patient like this when the family was 15 feet away in the room. If I heard a nurse talking about my husband that way, I'd be furious. And yes, I get that nurses get mad at patients. But from what I can gather, she was mad at him for being in pain after surgery.
    I'm not judging anyone or thinking that I know what it's like to be a nurse. I do not. But I want to and I want to learn what the floor dynamics are so that I may more easily navigate them when I am a "real nurse". I know nurses have bad days and I am positive I will judge my patients as well from time to time because I am human. I just felt like this went a step too far. But maybe I'm wrong on that....
  11. by   LovingLife123
    Oh my. You are a student. A student who has zero experience. Come back after a few years of experience and tell us you have never spoke about a patient.
  12. by   Jenbripsu
    Quote from LovingLife123
    Oh my. You are a student. A student who has zero experience. Come back after a few years of experience and tell us you have never spoke about a patient.
    I am definitely seeing from the responses that this IS the norm and I have to say I'm disappointed. Apparently I was pretty naïve.
    However, it won't change a thing for how I will behave. I'm not saying that I won't ever talk about a patient. I will say that I won't call a patient a ****** ***** because they are in pain and then make fun of their military service. And I won't talk about them when the family is 15 feet away. But other than that, I am certainly not saying I am better than anyone. I wanted to know if it was normal and apparently, the answer is yes. In 6 months in clinical experiences, this is the first time I heard a nurse talk like this, so I was surprised. That's all.
    Last edit by traumaRUs on Apr 9
  13. by   OldDude
    Your only goal is to get the "paper" that says your're a nurse. Keep your eye on the target. Then you can...
  14. by   Double-Helix
    Quote from Jenbripsu
    I did not say anything BECAUSE I know that I am a guest on the unit. I go out of my way to make my being there be a benefit to the nurses. I've worked with some really great nurses from whom I have learned a lot. This nurse is always kind of crabby and rude. It didn't bother me whatsoever until I heard her discussing this patient like this when the family was 15 feet away in the room. If I heard a nurse talking about my husband that way, I'd be furious. And yes, I get that nurses get mad at patients. But from what I can gather, she was mad at him for being in pain after surgery.
    I'm not judging anyone or thinking that I know what it's like to be a nurse. I do not. But I want to and I want to learn what the floor dynamics are so that I may more easily navigate them when I am a "real nurse". I know nurses have bad days and I am positive I will judge my patients as well from time to time because I am human. I just felt like this went a step too far. But maybe I'm wrong on that....
    Your responses come across as very defensive. You asked if this type of behavior is the norm. You asked if you were correct in reporting her to your clinical instructor or if you should have said something to the nurse directly. You alluded that you wouldn't have any friends at work if you refused to participate in negative conversations about patients. You asked for opinions from nurses here. I simply answered your questions and addressed your post- and agreed with you, actually.

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