"Nurses are so Mean"

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    I wish the phrase "nurses eat their young" had never been coined. Thirty some years ago when I was a new grad, the phrase hadn't yet been coined. When I had problems with my co-workers, I could only look at my own behavior. I was young, fresh off the farm and totally unprepared for my new job as a nurse.

    I wish I had a dollar for every post I've read claiming that "nurses are so mean," "nurses are nasty to each other," "nurses eat their young" or "my preceptor is picking on me for no good reason." And then if you add in all the nurses who are "fired for NO reason" or is hated by their co-workers because they're so much younger and more beautiful than everyone around them or just can't get along with their colleagues no matter what they do -- well, I'd be a rich woman. I could retire to Tahiti and lounge on the beach sipping margaritas and eating bon bons. Or whatever. You catch my drift.

    I'm beginning to believe that the nurses, nursing students, new grads and CNAs who claim that everyone is being mean to them are revealing far more about their own charactor than they are about the people around them.

    It's usually pretty much a pattern -- someone who is new to nursing, new to a specialty or new to a job posts a plaintive lament about how everyone they work with is just so MEAN. Often times, when the poster goes on to describe the situation, it's just that they had a negative interaction with one nurse -- and often just that one time. It's as if no one is allowed to have a bad day. There are no allowances made for the colleague who may be a bit brusque because they've been up all night with a cranky baby or a wandering parent with dementia or their dog just died or even -- heaven forbid -- they're weary of answering that same question over and over without any learning occurring.

    People have bad days. It's just one of those things. We cannot all call in sick every time we've had to stay up all night with a child or parent, put the dog to sleep or take antihistamines. We can't all not come to work every time the sewer backs up, the roof leaks or the car won't start. Some of us on any given day have worries and responsibilities outside the job. If you happen to encounter a colleague on the day she discovered her husband was cheating on her, her child crashed another car or the space heater fried a whole circuit they might just be rude to you. They probably don't mean it, possibly don't even realize they WERE rude to you. Cut them some slack. Even preceptors have really bad days when nothing goes right. If you're looking for nurses eating their young or being mean and nasty to their co-workers, you'll find them. Whether or not they actually ARE young-eaters or mean nurses.

    Another common theme is a poster complaining about how mean her new co-workers are to her. She's never done anything to deserve it, she's always been pleasant and helpful and she thinks (or someone has told her) that they're picking on her because they are just so jealous of her relative youth and beauty. I'm suggesting that if that's what you believe -- that you're perfect, but your co-workers are jealous of your youth and beauty -- you ought to perhaps look a little deeper. Much of the time, there will be another reason that you're not getting along with the people at work. Perhaps you're not being as friendly and helpful as you think. Perhaps you're not carrying your full share of the work load, or aren't learning despite asking the same questions over and over or are rude to people you percieve as "old dogs who ought to retire" or "ugly old hags."

    If you're writing in to complain that "mean people follow me everywhere" and "I've had five jobs since I graduated six months ago, and my preceptors have all been nasty" or "nurses eat their young and I know that because I'm always being eaten," stop and think for a minute. If the same problem follows you everywhere you go, it may not be them. There's a good chance that it's YOU. You can change jobs as many times as you like, but everywhere you go, there you are. Since the only person you can change is YOU, stop and think about what you might be doing to contribute to your problems. A little self-assessment and introspection can only be a good thing.

    I wish the phrase "nurses eat their young" had never been coined. Thirty some years ago when I was a new grad, the phrase hadn't yet been coined. When I had problems with my co-workers, I could only look at my own behavior. I was young, fresh off the farm and totally unprepared for my new job as a nurse. When I grew up and learned more, my co-workers became muchy nicer people. While I know that lateral violence does exist, I don't think it exists to the point that some people seem to think it does. Or to the degree that a regular reader of allnurses.com could believe it does. Every time you have a negative interaction with a co-worker, it's not necessarily lateral violence. It could very well be that someone is having a very, very bad day. Or week. Or it could be that rather than your co-workers being jealous of your extreme good looks, you're regularly doing something really stupid or thoughtless that irritates or annoys them. Quite possibly, the problem is you. Maybe you're not studying enough, learning enough, understanding enough or doing enough. Certainly if you're always having the same problems over and over again, everywhere you go, the problem IS you.

    The only person you can "fix" is you. I really, really wish that people would at least consider the possibility that they are part of the problem before they scream that "nurses eat their young."
    Last edit by Joe V on May 3, '12 : Reason: formatting for easier reading

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    About Ruby Vee

    Ruby Vee has '38' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ICU/CCU'. From 'the Midwest'; Joined Jun '02; Posts: 8,615; Likes: 31,149.

    Read more articles from Ruby Vee

    219 Comments so far...

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    OMG, It's like you stepped into my head and wrote down what I have been thinking.
    blueheaven, Orca, LaTisha K, RN, and 1 other like this.
  4. 13
    I completely agree with your post but sometimes I find other departments being nasty to each other and I dont get it. I feel like often when I call report to the floor or unit they are looking for things to knit pick about, I am not saying everytime, also they huff and puff about getting another pt. I try just to listen and kill them with kindness. I dont complain when EMS brings me one new pt after the next. We need to all realize we are there for thesame reason, the patients, we all have good and bad moments but keep your smile on
    HonestRN, Firefly1009, timetoshine, and 10 others like this.
  5. 5
    I graduated last May and have had positive experiences working in a LTC/rehab facility, in a free clinic as a volunteer, and in a community hospital. I work hard and ask a lot of questions and seem to be getting along fine. The new LPN grad seems to be having a similarly positive experience.

    What does surprise me is how awful some of the experienced nurses at both LTC/rehab and the hospital are to each other. A few have worked in the same unit for many years, and others have only been there a few months. They backstab and gossip, decreasing morale and taking time away from patient care. It is a frustrating situation. Thank goodness most of the abrasive personalities are on the opposite shift to mine!
  6. 20
    From working at several jobs over my career, I've noticed that bad units usually have bad managers. The attitude trickles down from the boss, and everyone thinks it's okay. The boss is bad if not worse about everyone else. At one job the boss was very obvious about her likes/dislikes for certain employees. Now when I interview, I won't take a job where I don't like the manager, because I usually won't like the unit.
    HonestRN, nurseclm, jo1010, and 17 others like this.
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    On the other hand, just because you're having a bad day, the dog barfed on the carpet, your kids are driving you nuts, your husband is a creep, whatever, it doesn't give a person the right to dump their garbage on everyone else by being rude. Just cause you step in the cowpie doesn't mean you can't wipe your boots off. Everyone has problems, it's a guaranteed fact of life. But it doesn't solve anything to bring your problems to work with you and grouse at your co-workers. Chances are, their problems are as bad or worse than yours. Find a friend to confide in, get a counselor, just learn to leave the attitude at the door.
  8. 15
    Quote from ruby vee
    if you're writing in to complain that "mean people follow me everywhere" and "i've had five jobs since i graduated six months ago, and my preceptors have all been nasty" or "nurses eat their young and i know that because i'm always being eaten," stop and think for a minute. if the same problem follows you everywhere you go, it may not be them. there's a good chance that it's you.

    i truly believe that there are some times when a unit culture is toxic ... or that some individual nurses are mean and nasty ... etc. but i totally agree with the above statement. when you find the same interpersonal problems everywhere, then you need to look in the mirror and acknowledge that you are probably contributing to the problems.

    most people are at least "reasonable" to work with if you give them a chance and get to know them -- and yes, allow for the fact that we all have bad days ocassionally.
    NurseShelly, Grapenut, opensesame, and 12 others like this.
  9. 18
    I think you sound defensive. This is a forum for nurses to express themselves. If you don't like certain topics/posts, you don't have to read them (you can tell by the topic roughly what will be in the posts). If these nurses frustrate you, take it with a grain of salt. Some people have thick skins and some are sensitive.
  10. 3
    Great post, Ruby.

    I love your comment that "The only person you can "fix" is you." When working with the high functioning autistic students in my classroom, I would regularly tell them that "the only person you can control, is you." They tend to have a need to control their environment and even though they are not well known for being the stars of social interaction, a lot high functioning autistic kids feel the need to coach others on how they should be interacting, etc. Anyway, I went off on a tangent, there.....I completely agree with the assertion that if you're noticing a trend in how others behave around, or towards, you then maybe it has something to do with your own behavior...
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 28, '10 : Reason: removed quote
    elb252, wooh, and Fiona59 like this.
  11. 48
    Is there some reason you feel so personally defensive about this topic? After reading this post (and several others you've written) it starts to make one wonder about the source of all the defensiveness. I'm not trying to personalize this to you specifically, but it has been my experience that when one takes up the cause of something so fervently and so publicly, that the source of the frustration really has to do with something deeply personal within themselves.

    Quite honestly, this topic has been beaten to a pulp. I would hope that we can all agree that it's ALL of our personal responsibilities to be respectful, thoughtful and considerate in our interactions with those that we work with. IMO having a 'bad day' is really no excuse to be disrespectful to coworkers or make other people suffer around you (especially those that are learning and may need a little extra attention). We should ALL check our attitudes AND personal problems at the door as much as possible when we come to work. Work is work. Not a place to abuse coworkers or vent out our personal frustrations.
    Pinktabby, ShelleyAnne69, trai1971, and 45 others like this.

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