Why Does Nursing Eat Its Young?

  1. I first heard this statement 20+ years ago from a nursing colleague. Recently, I heard it again from a professor in my graduate program. And, 30 years in the health field have shown me that it's TRUE -- our profession does not treat students and newcomers well at all! WHY?

    What is it about Nursing that causes so many of us to forget we were ever students or beginners? Is it something about the work that does this, or is it the type of people who are attracted to the profession? If you agree that this is a real problem, what can we as nurses do to resolve it?
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  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   Alexandra


    I agree with you we do seem to eat our young.Why do we do it is a mystery !,perhaps we feel threatened by their up to date education,or they are safe scapegoats.Now we do not eat young doctors and we can't vent fustration on the patients.We should pay compliments to the new nurses on tasks well done.We have all been in their places and know how it hurts when some other nurses were unkind to us.
  4. by   CLB99
    I have current experience from the student end of the problem. I am a senior now and have been repeatedly told by staff nurses to get out of the field now "before it's to late". I like working in clinicals, but many times when I ask a staff nurse a question I feel like she/he either thinks I'm an idiot or that this is an imposition. The instructor cannot always answer questions about specific hospital routines.
    China
  5. by   Regina
    I'm responding to Garry's original question. I've seen mistreatment of nursing students in the past, but not blatant or a malicious intent to discourage them or be rid of them. I'm a 20 year vet to the nursing field and a student in my senior year in a BSN program. So I'm currently on both sides of the fence. Students and new nurses seem to have to pay their dues regardless of their formal education. We have battle scares, those of us that have been in the profession for a while. Fresh nurses should maintain a certain respect for this experience. Older nurses should remember what it was like to be new and there are many who do remember, but there's a depth to the practice of nursing that is only acheived by living it for a few years. Students also have to go through a kind of initiation, I think, it is a difficult profession and many people are threatened by the enthusiasm and the fresh academics of new nurses and students. I don't know how to change this in human nature. Both student and experienced nurse need to meet half way on this and I think the nursing schools and businesses should pomote this truce in their places of training and practice. We have a lot to learn from each other.
  6. by   Garry Halliday
    In response to Alexandra:
    It is interesting that we don't eat new doctors the way we eat new nurses, isn't it? Although, if you've ever been in a teaching hospital in July when the new interns arrive, you certainly see a few nibbles taken out of them. But most of that is usually done behind their backs, since most nurses have learned that there is no point in getting into an ankle-biting contest with a physician, even the new ones.

    I think working together is the key. If we would simply help one another and support each other, that would go a long way to resolving many of these issues.


    In response to Regina:
    I don't think that the mistreatment of students in necessarily malicious, but even if it is unintentional it still hurts. And students should certainly show a degree of respect for our experience. But respect must be earned, and I'm sure you have seen nurses who act as if they were born with their nursing school pin on their chests, and seem
    to have completely forgotten that they ever were students themselves.

    I like your point that we need to meet halfway, and learn from each other. If every one of us had this attitude, I honestly believe that nursing would be a far, far better place for everyone.


    In response to CLB99:
    It always has bothered me to hear nurses say, "Get out while you can." I wish they would "get out" themselves. If anyone is so unhappy with what they are doing, it is time to do something else.

    There are certainly times when the staff is in a better position to answer questions than the instructor. It may be an imposition at times,
    but none of us got to be nurses without the support and assistance of many others, both faculty and staff. It is our obligation, as nurses, to give back to the profession, and to never forget that once we were the student.

    [This message has been edited by Garry Halliday (edited 11-04-98).]
  7. by   Garry Halliday
    Last week, while working as a substitute clinical instructor in psychiatric nursing for a community college ADN program, two events occurred that illustrate both sides of the "student vs staff" equation.

    1. A very busy staff member asked a nursing student, who was sitting at the nursing station reading a chart, if she would take vital signs on a patient in alcohol withdrawals. The student declined, stating, "No, I'm too busy."

    2. The charge nurse on one of the unts told a student that she could not care for the patient she had selected, because the patient had become upset and thrown a chair down the hallway the preceeding evening (NOTE: students come to the hospital the day before clinical to select and research their patients; also, this student had taken care of this same patient the previous week.)

    In event #1, the staff member was rather irate. The student was oblivious of the situation. So, who was right?

    In event #2, the student asked me what to do. After discussing the situaton with her, we decided she would instead take a patient who had been assigned to another student who had called in sick that day. I elected not to push the point with the charge nurse, even though I'm pretty sure I could have won the argument. My concern that if anything went the slightest bit wrong, it would be "the student's" fault for sure. Did I do the right thing
  8. by   res04lly
    There was a statement that Dr's don't eat their young. Well they do, they do it just alittle quieter than we do. I first heard this term "eating our young" when i was in nursing school. The instructor's told us that the older nurses were afraid we might want their jobs so that's why we are treated so poorly.I still feel the bottom line to the problem is in attitude from new grads.I have seen many posts that state they are arguemenative,they roll their eyes, they have a know it all attitude that does not set well with the seasoned nurses. When i came out of school i was very appreciative of my mentors who taught me some very valuable things,that i later used to make my job easier. There is nothing so frustrating then to be showing a new grad something and have them give you a bunch of attitude and say well i already learned that in clinical. I really don't care because you are in the real world and what worked in school is not the norm of things.I really need to protect my liscense as well as the new grads and as a mentor i have asked supervisors to give new grads to others because i don't want the additional stress that this type of resistance can cause.The new grad needs to realize that they are the babies of the profession and they need to learn just as i learned by listening and appreciating what my mentors did for me. It is a form of respect that seems to have been lost in the last 16 years. Some of this i put on the nursing school for placing this fear in the new grad but the other is the grad it's self. Our society really doesn't teach respect anymore and i surely would want directive from a seasoned nurse than a green nurse, who has little or no experience in the field. I respect the seasoned nurse because she has learned threw trail and error where the green nurse has limited experience and text book learning to back them up. Do you understand what i am saying.
    The mentor has alot of responsiblity to make sure this person goes from point A to point B without a Lawsuit hanging over your head. It is all in how you present yourself on the floor and to how receptive your are to the instruction of your mentor. Your mentor has walked many more floors than the new grad and has had many more experiences that are not text book formulated and what she has to say is important and you need to listen, without the smart mouth, rolling of the eyes, wanting to argue about something that you have little or no knowledge of what and how to do it. You need to respect her for her years of service, her knowledge, her ability to teach you what she knows and show her the respect that she deserves, Not what you think she deserves. We don't eat our young we need young who are willing to be molded and shaped into good respectable,knowledgeable nurses that can take what they have learned and pass it on to the next bunch of Newbies that hit the floor. When you come with an attitude, smart mouth, and behavior that is not appreciated -you will be eaten- because the mistake you make can cost me my liscense.
  9. by   gpip
    Come on. I have been a nurse for 2 years and just because someone has been a nurse longer than me is not a reason to respect them. I work with alot of nurses with more time in the feild than me who are complete morons. I think respect should be mutual if you show me alittle I will show you some period. At 32 I am not some young kid fresh out of College with no life experiance to back up the way I act. I do respect most of the older nurses but to say we as new grads should respect everyone because of a time frame is ludicrous. An example of this is My fiancee is also A nurse she works on a post cabg stepdown unit a patient she was caring for had a rythem change which he had had on a prior night as well and had meds ordered forr the condition. She did not call the doctor after she was told she should by another staff member. When she did not the other person said she was being direspectful because she was a "newbie" and should do everything she was told by her more seasoned co workers. She had worked on the unit as a tech longer than her more "seasoned" collegue and knew the protocol but you are saying she should bow down because the other nurse had more experiance. Thats bull I ask questions of the nurses I repect than make the dicision based on everything. It is my liscenseI am practicing not theirs.
  10. by   res04lly
    You have 2 years experience that isn't a drop in the bucket to what i have. With your attitude i know many male and female mentors who would "eat You" just for the moron comment. I resent that statement, anyone with 2 years experience can't hold a candle to those who have been in the business for years and when you can't even respect your co-workers it's pretty sad i sure wouldn't want your attitude working on one of my family members.I don't care if you are 32 with your attitude your not going to get the respect you feel you deserve, you have to earn it just like everyone else whether you are fresh out of school or not. What role does your fiance now hold on that unit? One of a Tech or One of a Nurse? I believe that it was not a form of disrepect because she had meds and could give them but don't you think the Physican had a right to know there was a change in his patients condition? Don't you think the patient had a right to know that his condition change was important enough to contact the doctor? What would have happen had this patient gone bad whose butts would it have been? The seasoned nurses right along with your fiance especially if you have Team nursing and the R.N. was in charge? If a lawsuit were to come form it would she be sued as a tech or a nurse? How would she have compared to the Prudent Nurse that we are held up against in a lawsuit. Until you have to testify in court or have to be subpeonaed in on something i don't think you have strong knowledge base to this. The first question to be asked is who was in charge? second question there was a change in condition was the physican called? Were you given a directive by a charge person? Did you follow threw with that directive? What would the prudent Nurse have done in this situation? These are some of the questions she might be asked. Then what is your position on this unit are you a nurse or a tech? What are your Job responsibilities? What are your patients rights in your faulity? Question to the charge or mentor over her could be? Did you give a directive? Yes would be her answer. Did the nurse in question follow your directive? answer was No, How long has this individual been on your unit? How long was her orientation? Did the mentor have any concerns or problems while mentoring? and the list of questions go on. I have seen seasoned nurse, lose their liscenses for just this type of mistake. So please don't start your attitude because being subpended to court for someone elses mistake is a very humbling experience and you can call who you want a moron but you better think twice about it. Your mistake can cost everyone. a lawsuit goes from the top down to you and you know who ends up looking like the moron you do. Your fiance should have recieved a write up for not following the directive she was given. She was lucky she did not end up suspended for patient endangerment, or lost her job over it. You need to be glad she was a Newbie on the floor because her charge nurse took the heat for this one. I take directive from who ever is in charge, I ask for help and usually get it with no problem.I respect whoever is in charge because it falls back on the charges liscense just as well as yours. So I guess when you look at the situation i would have been upset too, she was given a directive by another nurse, she did not follow that directive, she decided not to call the doctor and the patient had some changes that may not be important to you but they were changes someone else felt were, She is functioning as a nurse not a tech and her skills maybe excellent as a tech but she is a new nurse just like you and to feel that you are the only one who practices on your liscense is right but whose liscense is charge above you? Did you ever think about there liscense? So you see as charge my 16 years override your 2 years and my experience gives me the knowledge to look at this situation alittle differently. I was new once too, I gave respect and I got respect but the attitude we are all talking about, shows up real strong in your post. You are 32 year old male nurse with 2 years of nursing experience what would you have done? It's not a matter of kissing someones behind it's a matter of keeping your behind and my behind out of court
  11. by   jamistlc
    Greetings All Nurses,

    I have read this post and feel that a miscommunication has occurred! First the original post is relative to the nursing shortage WE are experiencing! In my class we had 35 students enroll by the time we graduated we had 9 of the original and 2 we picked up along the way. So my opinon is that nursing school is designed to weed out the really bad nurse want to be's. I have been fortunate, maybe it is becuase I am male but I have had only one instance in my 11 years as a nurse, of a nurse (the Charge and a BSN) being outright rude to me as her subinorate. And in that situation a Attending Physician spoke for me and put her in her place. That was in my first year at my first job (Neuro/Surg). The issue was I could not take a verbal order as the charge was trying to tell the Doctor he boldy told her he was consulting with me and throwing out options, not orders and told her she was not in the converstion. Way cool becuase I was a bit apprehensive about it all anyway. Today I no longer have that feeling of being less than for not being a RN.

    I think alot of the weeding out comes from the enviroment and the fact we/I do not want to be sued so if we act like we eat our young it is to protect our clients, the new nurse from themselves, and my licensure.

    I agree with the statement about mutual respect is earned! But I also have to say that the virtue of having experience and accreditation/training adds to that respect. As a LPN I am legally oblidged to follow a order from a RN, if I doubt it is correct I ask straightforward for clarification and an explanation/education for me! If I still doubt it I ask an other nurse, the supervisor, or a physician. It is that simple ! I do not talk behind peoples backs, roll my eyes or anything else disrespectfull, regardless if it is a CNA or the director of Nursing I ask for and give respect. I have had many times when a Nurse who is closer to retirement or burnout than me has a knowledge defict about what ever (and she would be my supervisor). I just give them the facts and my respect for their wisdom! Neither of us beccome offended and both of us continue to practice. And when I do not know I ask, I never act like I know what I am doing to get the job done or to appear like less of a Nurse. I teach HIV/AIDS Education for the American Red Cross at the begginning of the class I say a phrase "There is no such thing as a stupidquestion, only the one that was not asked!" I would like to end my response with that!


    Peace,
    Have Blessed Day,
    Jami
  12. by   gpip
    yOUR RIGHT MY 2 YEARS EXPERIANCE IS JUST A DROP IN THE BUCKET, BUT YOU MISSED MY POINT ON THE MORON COMMENT AND i AM SORRY IT OFFENDED YOU. THE POINT WAS THAT SOME NOT ALL NURSES ARE NOT MENTOR QUAULITY AND I WOULD NEVER GO TO THEM WITH A QUESTION BECAUSE I HAVE SEEN THEM WORK AND THE DOCTORS DO NOT TRUST THEM, AND THEIR COLLEGUES DO NOT TRUST THEM, AND THEY DO NOT TRUST THEMSELVES AND HAVE FOR SOME REASON BEEN ABLE TO STAY AFLOAT IN THE PROFESSION. I WAS ALWAYS TAUGHT TO SEEK OUT MENTORS THAT I TRUST AND RESPECT AND I HAVE DONE THAT AND GO TO THEM WITH ANY QUESTIONS I HAVE ABOUT ANYTHING. I WILL KEEP DOING THIS AS LONG AS I AM A NURSE. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE HAD SOME BAD EXPERIANCES WITH "NEWBIES" BUT TO GENERALIZE THAT WE ALL HAVE ATTITUDE AND ROLL OUR EYES IS REDICULUS. I TRY TO BE NICE AND HELPFUL TO EVERYONE I WORK WITH AND THAT SEEMS TO WORK. AN EXPERIANCED NURSE(TEN YEARS IN ICU) ONCE TOLD ME THE SINGLE BIGGEST THI9NG TO BEING A GOOD NURSE AND STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE IS COMMAN SENSE AND I THINK THAT GOES ALONG WAY, BECAUSE COMMAN SENSE TELLS ME THAT IF I HAVE A QUESTION TO GO ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS MORE THAN I DO AND COMMON SENSE TELLS ME THAT I DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING, AND COMMAN SENSE TELLS ME THAT EVEN WITH YOUR 16 YEARS EXPERIANCE NEITHER DO YOU AND MAY YOU COULD LEARN SOMETHING FROM ONE OF US "NEWBIES" ALTHOUGH PROBABLY NOT AS MUCH AS WE COULD LEARN FROM YOU IF YOU WOULD DISPENSE WITH THE ATTITUDE. AND AS FAR AS GETTING EATEN FOR SOME REASON I DO NOT GET EATEN HERE AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF NURSES LIKE YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS HERE. I GUESS I JUST KNOW HOW TO PLAY THE GAME, WHICH TO ME IS THE KEY.

  13. by   essarge
    Jami,

    Would you please come and work wherever I end up after school?

    I totally agree with your methods. I also agree that a nurse that is approaching or is at the burnout point may have a deficit in that area...thus asking more than one opinion is not being disrespectful.

    Let me play devil's advocate for a minute...with medicine advancing every day, let's say that the "new" nurse knows a different more effective procedure and the "more seasoned" nurse insists that it's her way or no way....at which point does it become disrespect on either part? Should the "new" nurse, out of respect, do it the old way, or should they do it the better more effective way and risk being written up by the "old" nurse for insubordination because they didn't follow a directive?

    Just a thought
  14. by   res04lly
    what we need to clarify is the beginning statement "why after 30+ years is the statement Nurse's eat thier young still around." The very first time i ever heard this, was my very first day of nursing school along with cya. We were told that the older nurse's were afraid we would take there jobs. It was also used to cause a them against us reponse while we were in school. Is this really necessary to scare and intimadate the new nursing students?? If the nursing schools would not tell the students this, do think that maybe just maybe we could all learn from each other?? My pratice is much like Jamistic's practice, and yes i have eaten 1 or 2 newbies in my 16 years the reason for it was patient endangerment, period. In my orginal post i stated what worked for me and what the other nurse's that come to these boards ,were complaining about, the attitudes of new grads, eye rolling, the unwillingness to take directive, the unwillingness to be mentored, the problems they were having dealing with this. I told what works for me. I have mentored many newbies and the majority of them are wonderful and then you have the other type described above. I have learned from my newbie as well as they from me. The ones who i have a problem with, if i can not resolve it,and i feel as if i might eat them, i hand them off to someone else who maybe able to mentor them with a different approach. I have learned many new skills and approaches to things from my newbie because i show them i respect them by LISTENing.I am currently a newbie on my floor, I have both new grads and seasoned nurses mentoring and what i described in my first post works. Respecting someone isn't kissing their behind it is listening and being attentive to What is being said or show to you. gpip i accept your apology for the moron comment but that is a fighting word for someone who has worked with handicapped especially the mentally retarded(old term- because my old brain can't spell today) to me personally that's like nurse's using the "F" word out on the floor that seems to be happening more and more these days. I would be more than willing to learn something new from you and i would be more than willing to teach you something new. As far as the attitude issue you brought up- take a look at your post and then you will see what i am taking about. I am sure that the seasoned nurses that you don't like, just might have alittle useable information that could help your practice if your looked real hard. As a newbie to my floor i continue to use what i have posted and guess what the Newbie eaters even tried to bite me-but my mentor told them just where the bear is in the woods- and they don't bother me anymore because of how i treat my mentor. I may never use half of what she shows me but she will never know how i really truely feel about any mentor who has trained me because i will use what i need and trash the rest. What i keep will make my patient care and practice better for my patient's and me. Until we as nurses stop the statement at the very beginning we will always have the question "why do nurse's eat their young" and "why do the young eat the old"

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