Ageism in Nursing School..

  1. Has anyone ever experienced this? I am the oldest in my class (48) and I constantly feel left out or made fun of. I caught a couple of my classmates rolling their eyes when I walked into the Nurses Conference room yesterday...we were at a skilled nursing facility and were doing our clinical work there. I don't get any respect from one of them - she is always snapping answers to questions I ask the professor! I have just about had it with this group of people I am in school with. I know I'm not there to make friends but to learn...but honestly, sometimes I get so nervous in class or in clinical that I actually get physically ill! I am in my first semester in nursing school. I don't want to drop out, but I am seriously considering it. And it's not from the patients or staff I have to deal with - it's from MY OWN CLASS!!
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  2. 50 Comments

  3. by   llg
    I'm sorry to have to say it, but you will encounter such people throughout your career. While you will meet many wonderful people within the nursing profession, you will also meet some who aren't so wonderful. You'll need to develop the inner strength (backbone) to be responsible for yourself and your actions without being overly concerned about what other people think, say, or do. However, it can hurt your career if you don't establish productive relationships with your colleagues. So, it is worth it to make an extra effort to get along with the majority group within your work group.

    I suggest that you do a brutally honest and thorough self-evaluation. Are you doing anything that brings unnecessary negative attention to yourself? For example: Are you asking so many questions that it slows down the class's progress? Are you asking questions that have already been answered? Do your questions cause you to appear a "different" in any way from your classmates in terms of your standards, perfectionism, etc. Does your tone of voice, word selection, and non-verbal behavior suggest to them that you down upon them as if they were your kids? etc. etc. etc. Are there other aspects of your behavior and/or attitudes that bring attention to the fact that you are different from your classmates?

    If so, the problem might not be irrational "agism," but rather a clash of cultures and personal styles. If that's the case (which it often is with people of different age groups), you can address those issues one by one and ease the tension a bit. You can be conscious of how your behavior aggravates the differences and work to smooth them over a bit and counteract the negative impression they give your classmates so that they can get beyond your differences and see you more as a colleague than an irritant.

    It's not that you need to become "like them" or be their "best buddy," but it might help you to be a little less conspicuous in your differences. Then they will be able to see that you are a nice person inside and you can begin to be supportive of each other rather than an irritant to each other.

    While that is probably not the advice you were seeking, I think it is something to consider. I have seen many "older" new graduates struggle with their careers because they could not learn to work with the younger generation as a peer and employee. Remember, when you graduate, you will be working side-by-side with people of all generations as coworkers. Your preceptor, your charge nurse, and your boss may all be considerably younger than you are. You will need to learn to work with them and to meet their expectations of you. Use this experience with your fellow students to begin to learn those important workplace interpersonal skills.

    Good luck,
    llg (aged 51)
  4. by   ilovehottea
    Quote from llg
    I'm sorry to have to say it, but you will encounter such people throughout your career. While you will meet many wonderful people within the nursing profession, you will also meet some who aren't so wonderful. You'll need to develop the inner strength (backbone) to be responsible for yourself and your actions without being overly concerned about what other people think, say, or do. However, it can hurt your career if you don't establish productive relationships with your colleagues. So, it is worth it to make an extra effort to get along with the majority group within your work group.

    I suggest that you do a brutally honest and thorough self-evaluation. Are you doing anything that brings unnecessary negative attention to yourself? For example: Are you asking so many questions that it slows down the class's progress? Are you asking questions that have already been answered? Do your questions cause you to appear a "different" in any way from your classmates in terms of your standards, perfectionism, etc. Does your tone of voice, word selection, and non-verbal behavior suggest to them that you down upon them as if they were your kids? etc. etc. etc. Are there other aspects of your behavior and/or attitudes that bring attention to the fact that you are different from your classmates?

    If so, the problem might not be irrational "agism," but rather a clash of cultures and personal styles. If that's the case (which it often is with people of different age groups), you can address those issues one by one and ease the tension a bit. You can be conscious of how your behavior aggravates the differences and work to smooth them over a bit and counteract the negative impression they give your classmates so that they can get beyond your differences and see you more as a colleague than an irritant.

    It's not that you need to become "like them" or be their "best buddy," but it might help you to be a little less conspicuous in your differences. Then they will be able to see that you are a nice person inside and you can begin to be supportive of each other rather than an irritant to each other.

    While that is probably not the advice you were seeking, I think it is something to consider. I have seen many "older" new graduates struggle with their careers because they could not learn to work with the younger generation as a peer and employee. Remember, when you graduate, you will be working side-by-side with people of all generations as coworkers. Your preceptor, your charge nurse, and your boss may all be considerably younger than you are. You will need to learn to work with them and to meet their expectations of you. Use this experience with your fellow students to begin to learn those important workplace interpersonal skills.

    Good luck,
    llg (aged 51)
    Thanks llG - I will take a long and hard look at myself. I may be doing the stuff in bold that you suggest - however, I don't ever remember treating my classmates as if they were my children...they're not, I know it and they know it. I would never do that to them. They are all bright, responsible mature younger people that I admire. I don't interrupt class with incessant questions - if anything, I just sit and listen.... But maybe I am doing something that irritates them? I just cannot recall ever doing any of the things you listed however.

    I wanted to add - the majority of people in my class come from a very cliquey hospital. All of the people I am in class with know each other from working together. I am not in that inner circle. I will try to make inroads - maybe I could take one of them aside and ask them why they are treating me like this? I really don't deserve it...
  5. by   muffie
    are these younger students 18,19,20 years old

    :icon_roll

    maturity comes in time
  6. by   Sheri257
    Quote from llg
    I have seen many "older" new graduates struggle with their careers because they could not learn to work with the younger generation as a peer and employee. Remember, when you graduate, you will be working side-by-side with people of all generations as coworkers. Your preceptor, your charge nurse, and your boss may all be considerably younger than you are. You will need to learn to work with them and to meet their expectations of you. Use this experience with your fellow students to begin to learn those important workplace interpersonal skills.
    Huh?

    I'm 46 and getting ready to graduate. I'm the second oldest in my class but, I can't say I've ever experienced it ... either in class or on the job.

    Maybe the younger students have made remarks behind my back but ... who cares? They wouldn't dare say it to my face.

    The last thing I care about is what a bunch of 20 year olds think about me. And I certainly wouldn't quit school over it ... that would be absurd.

    I've had plenty of preceptors and managers that were younger than me. It's no big deal. Just do the work.

    :typing
  7. by   ilovehottea
    They are all about 22 to 23 except for a few that are in their 30's. It is tough when you need them to help you out with stuff - like stuff in clinical that the instructor asked them to do....or the fact that they have more experience loking in charts, and I need to find something to finish clinical...Respect comes TWO WAYS. If you give ME respect, I will give YOU respect. Thats the way I feel about it....
  8. by   traumaRUs
    I am sorry that you are having problems. Nursing school is stressful and when there are personality conflicts, it can sometimes be brutal. I did nursing school in my 30's with two kids and worked full-time. I don't remember anyone (teacher or student) in either my LPN or ADN program! The reason I'm saying this is because who is going to care in the end?

    This is your first semester - you have a lot to learn in a very short period of time. However, many of the things you are learning now (charting, hospital layout, where to get supplies) will be the same or simliar throughout your nursing school experience. Just figure this is the price to pay for getting what you want...a nursing degree!!!

    I am 48 too and I have found that as I get older, I have more patience with those younger (and sometimes more immature) than me. It comes with life experience.

    Don't fret it - look over your class and pair up with someone who is more your style. If there isn't one, then do what you need to do with your classmates and go on. Nursing school doesn't last forever.

    Good luck.
  9. by   hollya5334
    I'm sorry your facing this. When I started my LPN program, I was 19 years old. I got ageism too. My best freind and I were the same age, and we were told by the 30-40 yr olds that we were "too young" and "too immature" to graduate nursing school, and we would probably fail. Well, guess what?! We are BOTH graduates and some of those people who said that to us failed! I know it hurts, and it sucks, but just chin up through it and when you graduate, you'll be that much stronger!!
  10. by   JentheRN05
    As hard as it is to believe. My first semester in nursing school I was the loner. I didn't talk to anyone, I was laughed at, same stuff you went through. But I decided WITHIN myself that I was better than that and kept my head up high. Beginning of second semester I found a lady just like you - exactly your age who had no friends either and I approached her. Just friendly talk. Well - it finally broke me out of the shell I was in. You have to believe in yourself before anyone one else will believe in you. In nursing school you are always questioning your abilities, but do you question yourself as a person? Probably not. Keep your head up high and show them what ya got, they'll come around.
  11. by   WDWpixieRN
    Haven't found it at my school yet, and I'm 50....except perhaps in my own mind!!

    My lab partner has been a very young 20-something who I hooked up with the 2nd week when neither of us had a lab partner yet....she's my best "school friend", but the rest of us all seem to be getting along fine...it's been kind of a slow process and since the instructors never did anything to help us learn each others' names (which we're STILL learning unless we have clinicals together), I think that may have contributed to our slow warming up...we all seemed to realize early on that we needed each other through the next 2 years and there really haven't been any issues that I'm aware of. However, I pretty much go to class and socialize there between breaks, then head off on my own way as do a lot of the others...

    Hang in there!
  12. by   firstyearstudent
    I am in my early 40s and I really don't experience any ageism. I am definitely one of the older students in my class but have friends in all the age groups.
  13. by   raekaylvn
    I am 23, and in my class of 45 about half the students are under 24, and the other half over 24. The majority of the younger students have clumped together. I sit about 2 rows in front of them. However, none of us younger students have a predjudice against the older students. In fact, we often hang out with them, and I study and eat lunch with a few daily! I honestly think that the instructors approach, attitude and maturity of the students and group bond all affect how we as students mesh together.

    OP, I'm so sorry those youngins are giving you grief. The best way to show them is by graduating. As much as its hard to not let them affect you, try not to. Throw yourself completely into your studies. Remember, you're there to be the best nurse you can be! And if you happen to make a friend or two along the way, then so be it.

    Best of luck to you!
  14. by   I RN A
    I've thought I would be the oldest student in my class (I'm 41), but there are peolple in my class who are about the same age as me or older. With 80 students in my class the age difference varies from 18 year olds to propably late 50's. I have never experienced agism. I try to interact with all ages. Although I'm 41, I don't feel my age and can relate to any group. I'm sorry you have to experience this problem. I probably would be hurt, but woudn't consider dropping out of school. You worked so hard to get to the point where you are. This is only a suggestion, but I would try to be open with these people and try to explain how you feel. They have to learn to be sensative to any age, religion or culture, otherwise they can't make good nurses.

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