How to deal with the old/experienced nurses?! - page 7

by Anna-s

14,862 Views | 155 Comments

Hello! I m a new RN on A med-surge floor and most of my co-workers are old nurses that have been on that floor for years! They don't seem to like me and i have NO idea why! I am a quiet person. I mean i like to socialize but I... Read More


  1. 1
    Quote from triquee

    Who doesn't love chocolate?

    In all honesty though, I tend to get on well with the battleaxe types. I was raised by a no-nonsense, rough around the edges, hard-working and intelligent woman. I understand them better than most my age. My skin is thick and I'm not easily intimidated. But I also know when to keep my mouth shut...most of the time anyway.
    Agreed! Those "battle axes" are the BEST nurses. They have shaped me to be an intelligent, capable, competent nurse, and a empathetic nurse...they also have helped me be able to enjoy nursing on my own terms...not much burnout, flexible and active in my career and nursing cultures when I have work-really drama and stress free...I have truly enjoyed my nursing profession, due to them...they are priceless!
    OCNRN63 likes this.
  2. 1
    OP, what you're experiencing is normal.

    Toughen up, do a good job, stay as quiet as you can, and show respect.

    When I was a new nurse working with battle axes I didn't try so hard to engage them, and didn't bug them with my greenhorn questions. I asked my boss my questions, I'd rather get iron-clad directions from her anyway, at least then I knew I'd be doing things the way she & the hospital wanted - not some backwards/shortcut way some old bat had been doing for years.

    Be on time, leave them alone, help when they ask, ignore their pecking at you, and bring in treats. Let time pass and keep at it. It'll get better, I promise. This is called "earning your stripes."
    anotherone likes this.
  3. 5
    90 days is how long you need to be there before you can transfer to another area.

    I have seen MANY newbies crying every shift because they can't handle the emotional aspect of what we do. We are also the unit to handle all fetal demises in the hospital. YOU try not to get emotionally involved when you have to go to the morgue and dress a 38 week stillborn and deliver that baby to the mom who was to be sectioned less than 24 hours before arrival at the hospital. You be there when a young mother of twin toddlers is given a cancer diagnosis and then stand by her side for months or years as she battles this disease only to be told that there is nothing more that can be done. I don't require every nurse to get emotionally involved, but I do expect that they respect the emotions of our patients and the nature of our unit. As I stated they need to respect the environment we have built. No I don't feel that every nurse has to attend the memorial service. That was just a way of saying that they gave everything they had to this patient, had closure, and came back to do it all over again with another patient instead of saying it was too hard and running away. When I was newer on the unit, I welcomed EVERY new nurse and tried to be the one they could come to and show them the ropes and then 98% ended up leaving. I was doing a hell of a lot of work taking them on and for what? So now, as I stated, I am open to helping them if they ask, but I am not going to kill myself for them until I know that they are sticking around. (And no, I don't mean kill literally - just clarifying as it seems you take everything that way)

    Examples of things "newbies" do that I don't respect:
    1. Walking away in the middle of report to get something and saying "I'm listening" - no your not!
    2. Thinking your too good to empty drains, clean emesis basins, take patients to the bathroom, fetch drinks, etc. - we're a team.
    3. Ignore me when I tell you what will set a doctor off and then cry when that doctor blows up at you.
    4. Ask me a question and then ask 5 more nurses the same question - look it up yourself if you don't believe 6 of us!
    5. Asking me to hold your pager while you go take your lunch break by the river when we are 2 nurses short and I haven't even peed since I got to work - by all means have lunch by the river!
    6. I have to answer your call bells because you are no where to be found only to discover you were on the next unit over kissing the butts of doctors while ignoring your pager!
    7. Passing the "buck" to the next shift leaving them behind from the start of their shift.

    I am not a hard nurse to work with, but too many times I am left wondering why someone even got into nursing. Are they wanting to find a Dr. husband, were they misinformed that this is a glamorous profession, is it just for the money because you know we are all rolling in it, or do they just lack the common sense to be able to apply the knowledge they learned in school?
    SCSTxRN, jadelpn, OCNRN63, and 2 others like this.
  4. 0
    Quote from Susie2310
    I can understand wanting to see new nurses on your unit demonstrate they are committed to giving good patient care. But, what does your attachment to the patients and to the doctors who work on your unit have to do with the new nurses? Those are your emotions. Why does the new nurse have to tiptoe around your emotional territory? "Learn what these nurses respect and show them that you have it" - that is fine if you mean the new nurse needs to demonstrate that he/she can deliver good quality care to patients and family members as part of a team, while following standards of care, the Nurse Practice Act, and unit policies and procedures. New nurses don't need to slavishly attend to the values the older nurses hold high, but they do need to provide quality nursing care to patients and their families. New nurses may genuinely care for patients without feeling a need to attend their memorial services (attending a memorial service is a personal decision, not a professional one). Yes, new nurses are wise to be respectful of their co-workers in a new job, and to work hard to give good patient care. You don't need to open your arms to new nurses, just be helpful, considerate, and allow them to be individuals with their own values and personalities.
    They don't need to be emotionally attached and it's not my emotions they need to be mindful of, it's the environment that we are in. They don't need to come to work and try playing practical jokes in the hallway of a patient who just learned she has about 4 weeks left to live.

    Yes, learn what the nurses respect...empty drains, take your patient to the bathroom, get them ice, be a team member and make your patient's needs a priority, etc.

    No, new nurses don't need to attend memorial services. That was my way of saying that they stuck it out, found closure, and came back to do it all over again. They didn't run away saying it was too hard, they didn't crack under the pressure. I am not going to get burnt out doing my job and taking on all the new nurses when 98% of them won't stick around. Been there, done that. Now for my own sanity, I do look for some commitment from the new nurse before I extend myself for them.

    I am just giving the OP my perspective. Only she can look at it and see if it applies at all to her situation.
  5. 7
    I think it is unacceptable behavior to be rude and/or nasty to anyone, regardless of their competence! Whether they like you or not they should respect you....and you need to demand that...your obligation is to your patients and your patients only! You owe them nothing and you became a nurse with your own brain...I'm tried of these burnt out type of nurses who think its ok to treat new less experience nurses like crap...get over yourself and remember you were once a new nurse! It's not ok and to me it's down right abusive! And who wants to stick around for that!
    multi10, Not_A_Hat_Person, HM-8404, and 4 others like this.
  6. 6
    I agree, the word "old" is outdated, and it is relative. I know this to be the case as a 69 year old worked circles around me, and looked 45. She was a sweet spirit, and it would break her heart to be called old. She had a heart attack on our off cycle, and I went 80mph all the way to her to hospital, 112 miles away, only to hear......(when it was time for our ICU visit)... "I must look horrible!" I teared up and couldn't choke back tears fast enough- and I'm a guy!" She normally had every hair in place and perfectly applied make-up!! She was beautiful inside and out- to nurses and patients. We all loved her, you couldn't help it!

    She had never looked more beautiful, and so angered at her failing body that broke my heart- she was the one who's wing I crawled out of when SHE let me, and she was one of the hardest people to please I've ever known!! I stand there, and all I could squeeze out was,..."are the nurses treating you ok?" ...she smiled,"...It's all a work in progress, but yeah they're good, for the first time I would trade knowledge for my youth back."

    I was broken hearted she showed her age for the first time in my life, time is viscous- and at the same time eases pain(an oxymoron). We lost a great nurse that week, aged, but full of "youth." Seasoned- and full of stories, grace, and elegance in her "bang-on" practice." She was an inspiration to inspirers. She was my mentor. She was a great Nurse!!!

    Maybe "youth" is an idea- a figment of our imagination. A popular culture false icon. Youth is relative, old is relative. I love my co-workers

    ...and I have never known a younger 69 year "young" nurse

    ....and I miss her, everytime I don't know an answer- she'd know, or a problem she could solve with the grace and precision of her massive experience as the highest decorated general does- and I aspire to her abilities, and if I am blessed,.. Talents
    Last edit by BostonTerrierLoverRN on Dec 31, '12
  7. 3
    Anna-s, I'm going to guess you are female - not because of your username but because from the start, your post indicates you are relationship-oriented. Most women fall into this category. You care about coming on the job and becoming a vital part of the happenings on the unit. I will tell you, as a sort of old but experienced nurse, you need to focus your energies on job performance and staying abreast of evidenced based nursing practice through trade journals and attending trade meetings for networking purposes. Many "old" and "experienced" nurses do not make a habit out of keeping their knowledge current, nor do they find the time to attend trade meetings and conferences. You can start or continue now doing this. It will go along way in helping you become not only an experienced nurse but become an expert practitioner. My opinion is that you do what previous posters have been advising you to do and not take your co-workers personal. Come in to work with an attiitude of caring, compassion, and gratitude. Meditate and pray (if you believe in that) before you go into work. Be at least civil (friendly if you can) with your co-workers as well as patients, family, and other staff and eventually you will find that you can adapt to most any work environment. Best wishes.
    HM-8404, carolLeeAnn, and anotherone like this.
  8. 3
    I am recently and very happily retired. But I spent 35 years in the trenches, and there are times when we don't have time to "be nice" because the task in front of us requires something else.

    Also, I would add to all that has already been said that not everybody responds positively to the "mary sunshines" of the world. My husband, the commercial pilot, calls them "sunshine pumps." They are every bit as annoying to be around (when there is serious work to be done) as the "debbie downers."

    I made it my practice to not talk about any personal problems I might be having at home while at work. Others live to work because that IS their entire world, and thus they think their coworkers want to know every little detail. We don't.

    The OP has a spectacular opportunity to learn from the experienced nurses she/he is now working with. Use it. And try to figure out what you can do in your own behavior that might make a difference.

    And good luck. You can do it.
    carolLeeAnn, anotherone, and OCNRN63 like this.
  9. 0
    Quote from portcl
    90 days is how long you need to be there before you can transfer to another area.

    I have seen MANY newbies crying every shift because they can't handle the emotional aspect of what we do. We are also the unit to handle all fetal demises in the hospital. YOU try not to get emotionally involved when you have to go to the morgue and dress a 38 week stillborn and deliver that baby to the mom who was to be sectioned less than 24 hours before arrival at the hospital. You be there when a young mother of twin toddlers is given a cancer diagnosis and then stand by her side for months or years as she battles this disease only to be told that there is nothing more that can be done. I don't require every nurse to get emotionally involved, but I do expect that they respect the emotions of our patients and the nature of our unit. As I stated they need to respect the environment we have built. No I don't feel that every nurse has to attend the memorial service. That was just a way of saying that they gave everything they had to this patient, had closure, and came back to do it all over again with another patient instead of saying it was too hard and running away. When I was newer on the unit, I welcomed EVERY new nurse and tried to be the one they could come to and show them the ropes and then 98% ended up leaving. I was doing a hell of a lot of work taking them on and for what? So now, as I stated, I am open to helping them if they ask, but I am not going to kill myself for them until I know that they are sticking around. (And no, I don't mean kill literally - just clarifying as it seems you take everything that way)

    Examples of things "newbies" do that I don't respect:
    1. Walking away in the middle of report to get something and saying "I'm listening" - no your not!
    2. Thinking your too good to empty drains, clean emesis basins, take patients to the bathroom, fetch drinks, etc. - we're a team.
    3. Ignore me when I tell you what will set a doctor off and then cry when that doctor blows up at you.
    4. Ask me a question and then ask 5 more nurses the same question - look it up yourself if you don't believe 6 of us!
    5. Asking me to hold your pager while you go take your lunch break by the river when we are 2 nurses short and I haven't even peed since I got to work - by all means have lunch by the river!
    6. I have to answer your call bells because you are no where to be found only to discover you were on the next unit over kissing the butts of doctors while ignoring your pager!
    7. Passing the "buck" to the next shift leaving them behind from the start of their shift.

    I am not a hard nurse to work with, but too many times I am left wondering why someone even got into nursing. Are they wanting to find a Dr. husband, were they misinformed that this is a glamorous profession, is it just for the money because you know we are all rolling in it, or do they just lack the common sense to be able to apply the knowledge they learned in school?

    Agree.
  10. 3
    I have a good strategy to deal with situations like this. First of all don't take anything personal know that all that is happening is a reaction to someone new. Be nice to everyone go ahead be extra nice you friendliness will eventually win everyone and melt the ice let time work for you. What I also do is to find that one person or two who actually is warm to you and just dedicate your attention to them, don't try to become friends with everybody. Politely and actively ignore the others. By being good friends with one member of the group will raise curiosity among the others as they try to figure out who you are and by doing that you create a different energy in your relationship with the group. Don't try to fit in and let them seek you, just create a favorable atmosphere so that can happen.

    Good luck


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