Why do nurses NOT support each other?

  1. I am troubled about the following true story. A local ICU nurse recently committed suicide. I did not know this nurse, but was told that she was a 42 year old single partent of two children ages 5 and 8. Obviously this poor dear had a great deal of mental stress in her life to the point she chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Part of the stress in her life was that she was fired from her job because of "back lashing" from a fellow nurse. We've all experienced having "one" nurse on the unit everyone dreads to give report to that particular nurse. On the other hand, what about nurses simply not supporting each other and "bickering" among themselves? Do you think it's because we're predominatly a female profession? Is this how females behave under any circumstance? What is wrong with us that we can't support each other? There seems to be a great deal of written information about nursing "burnout" but very little about self-examing our profession and the lack of support for the nursing profession among ourselves! Perhaps it's because it would be too painful to take a real look at our lack of individual humane support for ourselves? I weap for the two children without a mother, the patients who would benefit from this ICU nurse's expertise, and a fellow nurse who was crying out for help and nobody heard her cries.
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   Peggy8
    As a nursing student it is also difficult. There is very little support from fellow RNs. Don't get me wrong, not all are like this. You would think the reason they got in this profession was so they can help others, huh? Most of us are Women, why can't we feel for each other?
  4. by   Georgetta
    Comments are circulating to the effect that nurses are, or could be, disfunctional individuals. Sometimes I regret to say I see a lot of this behavior demonstrated on nursing units with some nurses displacing their own feelings of frustration and "burnout" onto other nurses, patients or anyone else handy. We place high standards on accuracy, responsibility, accountability, autonomy etc, etc. In other words expect miracles from ourselves and others in a high stress position. You make a mistake and someone "rips you up." You don't hold up what someone else thinks is your end of the workload and again you "get it". A lot of nurses are such obsessive/compulsive types (myself included) they tend to be rigid and closed-minded to others. (I'm not that rigid) Competitive behavior plays a part in this, ie "I've got more buttons/initials on my name badge than you" and also the ultimate
    education snobbery. "I went to this or that UNIVSERSITY, where did you go?" I hate the part where nurses are mean or unkind to student nurses. Students need to be nurtured and taken under our wing. If they see us as unfeeling and uncaring they might believe they should be too. Rolemodeling you know. However, being affiliated with a teaching hospital, I see some nursing students who come across as young "Einsteins" and act as if they "know it all". Assertiveness has its place but I believe a little humility is in order from us all. We need to support and encourage each other but it's really hard to give a compliment to someone on a job well done and have the reply "I know, I do good work" instead of "thanks, I appreciate that".
    I AGREE, we need to support each other. Keep it up.
  5. by   Tleeves
    Unfortunately Nurses often have the reputation of "eating their young". I think it may stem from being so short-staffed that they feel unable to give quality care while watching a student RN or orientee. Some are also so afraid that new nurses won't know what they are doing, that they barely let student RNs and new grads even move! Even so, it isn't an excuse for them. I do find, however, that in the ICUs where nurses seem to be better staffed, they are also more open and helpful with the new kids on the block. hang in there! before you know it you will be the one with the experience and expertise, with hard time under your belt. Then remember the feeling of being new and unsure, then maybe you can help ease the burden on a young RN!
  6. by   kw24601
    Want to know why "nurses eat their young"? I'll tell you. A lot of them are afraid that young, new grads, fresh out of school, full of energy and hired at a lower pay scale may come in and take their job. Since nursing isn't unionized nurses can be fired at anytime for any reason. Think about it. I know it sounds cold - but it's true. I've talked with several nurses, who are down right mean to new grads, who actually admit to the above reason for being hesitant to help a new grad learn on the job. Seriously, think about it - put yourself in their shoes.
  7. by   Agnus
    This grieves me. Unfortunately this happens all too ofter. As a student we had an RN in our mental health unit who was a patient. She was a good nurse, but had no one to turn to for support, so this is where she ended up.
    We are taught to hold our feelings to our selves in nursing school. We are taught we must be perfect in every nursing act. (God help us if we make a human eror) This is not entirely without justification, we carry a heavey responsibility. Occasionally this topic comes up in school but is paid only lip service.
    WE ARE NOT ALONE. We need to call on our fellow nurse and others for help and support. WE NEED to be there when a fellow nurse asks for help, advise, etc. No nurse should ever try to carry the load alone. She must advocate for her self and her co-workers. Everyone is insecure about nursing's responsibilities. It is this fear that makes us so vicious. I try to aproach a more experienced nurse with compassion in mind. I will offer her my respect, admiration, and appreciation for what she does openly. Not just silently keeping it to myself. She can't read my mind. I'll look for the best and love the human side of the nurses I work with. Know when someone lashes out that there is something they are struggling with at the time, and offer to help, try to empathize. I know this we were taught this but only apply it to patients. For shame. I resolve to today to show the love I feel for you all.
  8. by   Tara
    Nursing is a wonderful profession. I have been an RN for 15 years. I certainly do not mind assisting a new grad however, there was a comment about feeling for each other. And I do feel your pain. Please note that at many times new grads are not willing to learn or already "know that" when the old nurse is just trying to asses their knowledge level. Nursing should be kept professional. Sometimes it seems there is to much feeling wanted or going on when the rest of us just want to focus at the task in hand or to keep our patients on our priority
    list. I do understand it is difficult for the new grad to cope with the real and not the ideal and I often find myself mentoring a new grad. It is really best to just not be intimidated by some of the nurses and understand they can't mentor all of the new grads all the time. Find one nurse who can show you the way and just go on. Keep the patient in mind and avoid the personal conflicts. I hope this doesn't sound harsh
    I just think sometimes a new grad (certainly not the majority) make the feeling for each other an everyday issue. Be respectful of your coworkers and focus on what needs to be done. Keep work pleasant. Most new grads are wonderful and full of new information. The combination of this with old nurse experience is always refreshing for everyone.
  9. by   jtfreel
    Boy did you ever hit a tender spot! It has taken me years and a lot of experiences and observations to even begin to have any real thoughts about your concerns. Nursing, unfortunately, is NOT the angel of health care who's worth is universally recognized and who's value is a given. To many organizations, nursing is a COST CENTER to be carefully controlled, defined and managed.
    On top of this is the reality that nursing is populated with many dedicated, committed, educated, caring, compassionate individuals who are sincerely professional and usually possess high personal and professional standards. How do you meet the needs of this group AND control them at the same time? For many other professions and organizations, that was a quandry. Unfortunately, with the best of intentions, this was assisted by many well meaning changes. JCAHO has continually placed more and more requirements on institutions which have translated into more and more documentation and review requirements placed on the staff RN. At the same time, managed care and the need for financial profits pressured organizations to squeeze more and more out of less and less staff. Coupled with this is the reality that the primary "customer" for many health care organizations is NOT the patient, but the physician. To further complicate matters, the presence of and the role of the registered nurse is required in acute care facilities by law. ( I have heard CEO's and CFO's even discuss this necessary evil!) The reality is that nursing and staff nurses in many facilities are powerless in the big picture. Now back to control: we can't let them know that. So hold them accountable for everything. Promote empowerment opportunities, teamsmanship and excellence guidelines. Few nurses will realize that whoever allows empowerment...can also take it away. Why do you think that the CNO position is viewed as short term? The CNO tries daily to balance the needs of the PATIENTS, with the staffing requirements to meet these needs, considering the needs of the staff, the physician culture, the regulatory guidelines and the financial realities of the organization.

    And, in my opinion, Nursing is not very good about promoting the profession or its value (diploma vs BSN vs AD: still raging). We are still having articles and research attempting to PROVE that we are a profession. Add to this confusion the fact that nursing students are graduating with less and less clinical preparation (which is forcing the organizations to provide preceptorships, to demand that existing staff orient/train new grads, or accept the "eat their young" mentality) and you have the recipe for stress.

    I love this profession and refuse to give up on the right of patients for quality professional nursing care-even when the "bottom line" is the profit margin, the need for meeting JCAHO and other institutional standards, and the need to stay current in a rapidly changing field.

    [This message has been edited by jtfreel (edited January 24, 2000).]
  10. by   ruby mcbride
    I have been a nurse for 30 yrs and seen it go full circle. I have also heard the theory that nurses are somehow dysfunctional and have a need to be needed. I also have witnessed how seasoned nurses "gobble-up" students and new graduations. I have also witnessed how nurses endure the wrath of doctors - and just take it. We need to ask outselves "would a man endure this behavior?" I think not, but women tolerate it. I have seen male nurses get more respect from doctors than female nurses. Are unions the answer - I don't think so. We have to change our thinking and practice. Nursing is not like it was 10-20 yrs ago. Although we still have to be a caring profession, we must become cost-effective in our practice - this means really supporting each other - how to do that - that is a million dollar question-
    A tip for the new graduate - be a little more humble when you start your new job. Don't come on board thinking you know everything (boy have I seen this). Book knowledge gives you the basic, but there isn't anything like on-hands knowledge and getting burnt a few times. Listen and watch others before you speak your opinions.
    On a positive note, I have worked at 4 jobs in 30 yrs, in many different areas, and it is the same everywhere - so job jumping is not the answer either. Good luck.
  11. by   AmyRN1227
    Originally posted by Peggy8:
    As a nursing student it is also difficult. There is very little support from fellow RNs. Don't get me wrong, not all are like this. You would think the reason they got in this profession was so they can help others, huh? Most of us are Women, why can't we feel for each other?
    I totally agree with you. Every day I have to try to keep a positive mental attitude as a nursing student because I see the people who are RNs just cut down the profession and are so negative. I don't need that! I need to hear more positive things about nursing. If it is so bad why do all these people stay in it for 15-30 years? I have been a witness to nurses "eating their young" and I'm already preparing myself. It's sad that we can't all just get along and act like adults. I don't know if it's a woman thing or what, but let's all help eachother through this is what I say.



    [This message has been edited by amystudent (edited April 06, 2000).]
  12. by   Nancy1
    I keep hearing this "eating our young" phrase, and I thank God that I have not experienced it. I am wondering if this could be turned aroun by those of us who have not experienced it. In one of my courses we were studying customer satisfaction. If a customer is truly satisfied it is not good enough because we have to go that extra mile to have the customer say, "I was at X restaurant and I think the service was outstanding ..." This customer may tell 3 of his/her friends. However if the customer fro Y restaurant had absolutly terrible service, he/she will tell 10 people.
    I would like to have those nurses who have been treated nicely to tell 10 others, and those who have been treated shabbily to tell NO ONE. I know this won't happen, but I am asking you to put this into perspective.
    I am an ADON in LTC. I know that some of my nurses are better at orienting new employees than others are. I try to set the new employee up with the better nurses. Though I have to admit I have heard lately it would be nice to put an extra person on to do a med pass so the person doing the orientating will not be so rushed in doing the job and explaining the job. The management team is looking into this, even looking at CNA orientation.
    I don't know how much this helps the situation you were in, but please remember not all of us eat our young. I want to make sure that there will be someone out there to take care of me. NA
  13. by   Ahn
    I think that I have said this somewhere before, but I truly believe that the negative behaviors attributed to nurses "eating their young," is largely due to the way females are socialized. Since nursing is a predominantly female profession, it is no surprise that passive/aggressive and splitting are among favorite defensive/offensive power maneuvers.
    Male nurses rarely exhibit these behaviors because in our society, males are still preferred over females. Typically, [and you won't like me for saying this] male nurses are still seen by other males in traditionally male roles as effeminate. A male nurse is still a male, and unless he networks like a female, he is still regarded as being more superior to his female colleagues - and is basically left out of the "retribution triangle." First a female nursing instructor that threatens and uses coercion initiates you as a student. Your self-esteem takes a beating, but you manage to graduate from nursing school. A employee supposedly precepts you into your new role as a licensed nurse, but instead, she vents her frustrations on you, finds fault in whatever you do because you are just one more burden placed upon her. It's just easier to do things herself, instead of trying to explain things to you. She has her own patient load, without having to carry the burden of your patients and a new grad. Finally, you survive and incredibly thrive despite what you have been through. You swear that you will never treat anyone the way you were treated. But then, one exceptionally horrendous shift, you are assigned a new grad - and the chain continues!
    I've tried to break that chain several times, but those links are strong - forged under fire. We all want to stand out from the rest, but unfortunately, kindness and loyalty these days are considered feminine.

    Alas, for to appear masculine is to appear strong. Usually, males will disagree on issues, and not make issue of people. Other than in beer commercials, have you ever seen groups of males sitting around, talking about what whom is wearing, their significant other, or Tupperware parties? Who is giving whom the "Blues?"


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    Keeping the Faith
  14. by   Miss Saigon
    I have expirenced the "eating of the young" and I began to question my ability to be a nurse, as a nurse you have to feel confident with your abilities, I'm starting to get that confidence back. I respect a co-worker if they point out something I am doing wrong, if it is in a constructive manner, but when I am talked to in a demeaning manner
    that respect is destroyed,especially in front of a patient or fellow co-workers and that turns into resentment. I am assertive and let that person know that I derserve respect, but do not embarrass me in front of others because that tarnishes my ability as a nurse. TREAT OTHERS HOW YOU WANT TO BE TREATED. As far a working with students or new grads, I get a feel for what areas need some assistance and work with them not "alienating them"

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