Do Nurses Eat Their Young?


  • Specializes in CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele. Has 29 years experience.

We have all heard the saying "Nurses eat their young". Do you feel this is true?

Please feel free to read and post any comments that you have right here in this discussion


This article sums it up for me... ?

This vile expression implies that experienced nurses do not treat new nurses kindly. My first problem with the statement is that it’s a generalization implying that all nurses are like that. Interestingly, whenever I hear someone utter the expression, I always say, “I don’t do that. Do you?” The person making the statement always says, “Oh no, I don’t, but many others do.” I’ve never heard even one nurse own up to doing this, although some nurses are willing to indict the entire profession. Every time that statement is repeated, it causes harm and casts a dark shadow on every nurse. Say anything enough, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Please note that by moderator consensus some of the "Nurses Eat Their Young" posts will be referred to this thread where there can be an ongoing discussion, rather than several threads saying the same thing.

To students and new grads that are having problems with nurses, please take a moment to read the above link. Is it really the entire profession, every single nurse, or do you need help with one or a few nurses? We will be glad to help you in dealing with those people, but let bury the phrase "Nurses Eat Their Young".

To experienced nurses who claim our profession eats it's young, please take a moment to read it as well and think about it. Also take time to teach, be friendly and nurturing to the new nurse and students on your unit.

Specializes in LTC/Peds/ICU/PACU/CDI. Has 27 years experience.

... "Nurses eat their young" but they also sometimes "Eat each other":rolleyes:

nightingale, RN

2,404 Posts

I believe it is not a nurse issue. It is an issue that happens that is negative amongst people. I hate to say this but many women (who are insecure, unhappy, and or negative) are threatened by each other. This happens in nursing, the business world, and other professions where there is competition.

It happens but not the majority of the time (thank God). It happens when management lets it happens. Sometimes it suits a managers ego or needs when there is a devide and conquer attitude.

Been there (in those negative environments) and moved on. How do I deal with it? I refuse to be a part of it. One day at a time I embrace my colleagues, nurture where I may be of assitance, and look for ways to keep myself nurtured and positive.



Has 21 years experience.

Pul-eeeeeeeze put this stupid saying to rest!

Nurses eat on the run, they eat while standing in the med room, they eat while taking their first bathroom break seven hours into the shift, they eat cookies as they fly down the hall and hope no one sees the food on the med cart, they eat fast food because it's cheap and fast even if it's not healthy, they eat Slim-Fast even when they're not overweight because it's fast, they eat out on their rare days off because they don't have the energy needed for domestic chores like cooking, but they don't, don't, don't, don't eat their young.

Most nurses don't have any experience outside of nursing, particularly in any kind of business environment. They expect a nurturing, kinder, gentler work environment because that is what they are trained to provide their patients. They are surprised to encounter all different kinds of personalities, some of which don't mesh well with their own. Just like they would find in the real world. For every nurse who supposedly eats her young, these same nurses can cite another nurse who was a patient, superb mentor. Just like in the rest of the real world. They can't believe that nursing administration as well as staff nurses don't have every mechanism in place to make their transition into nursing a dream instead of a bumpy ride, not understanding their own role in creating and maintaining a professional work environment. These nurses expect an ideal workplace, thinking it is somehow a realistic goal in a bitterly imperfect world, and look for someone to blame when they find Shangri-La does not exist.

The very suggestion that nurses even *have* young to whom they haven't given birth is a sexist carryover, despite its seemingly innocuous meaning. We are not the mothers of less experienced nurses, and our obligation to these nurses is professional, not maternal. Can you imagine accountants or construction workers or lawyers talking about their "young?"

There are as many arrogant young nurses who disrespect their elders' experience and accumulated wisdom as there are old birds who are intimidated by new blood and new ideas. It's not a factor of age, but rather of the individual coming to the position. To perpetuate the mantra, "nurses eat their young," is to give continuing life to a stereotype and to reward a thoughtless naivete about the world of work, while providing a disservice to those veteran nurses who must repeatedly defend themselves against unfounded unreason, while bringing us all down as a profession worthy of serious respect.

nightingale, RN

2,404 Posts

thank you catlady... I could not have said it better (and did not) myself!





6,620 Posts

I don't know how anyone can think we don't eat our young. We are terrible to new nurses a lot of the time. Then we wonder why they leave our hospital within a year.


22 Posts

not only there young, but their old too =):chuckle


9 Posts

yes! I have seen new nurses reduced to tears time and time again.There is unfortunately an air of superiority that runs through some nurses and it can lash out at any given moment. We've all seen it or even had it done to us. I had a nursing instructor that attempted to fry a number of us students if we made a mistake.And then a nurse

"stalked" me at my first med surg position. I did leave that job and thank God at my next job, an older nurse helped me to get my confidence back and was a "mentor" for the next two years. Looking back I realize that I never did thank her. So Carol H from CECC thank you!!!!


7 Posts

Specializes in recovery room. Has 35 years experience.

I have always looked at new nurses as my allies for the future. If you take your time with them, teach them, help them and mentor them they will be the first ones at your side when things go to hell. New grads can be frustrating because there is still so much for them to learn ( as there is so much for us old nurses to learn too.) I try to remember that I was a novice once too. We can teach each other and the patients will be the utimate winners.



1 Post

to catlady,

I don't know what planet you are on, but new nurses are treated awful by more experienced nurses. There are a few good nurses out there that will be a mentor to new nurses but they are few and far between. At the hospital I work in, I was reduced to tears many times but I am too hard headed to give up. Unfortunately 2 nurses that started work about 4 months after I did were reduced to tears by more experienced nurses and were not quite as hard headed as myself. Guess what? In this situation everyone has lost! The unit I work on is so short handed we can't afford to lose nurses. Patient satisfaction is going down the tubes and the nurses left are completely overloaded! So next time you treat a nurse awful, remember you may need that extra set of hands sooner than you think!!

Jay Levan

154 Posts

Surely you jest:imbar They will not only eat their young, they will for their own selfish, and insecure reasons, eat anyone in the profession. For such stupid reasons as "this one doesn't fit our mold" in a particular click:( Also though many pay homage to males in Nursing, if a male makes a mistake in "How to communicate, their concerns, by not being in touch with his female side he had better prepare for the female rath that will surely show it's ugly head:eek: The insecure reasons are many, if a new staff member shows to much initiative, they may well be seen as a threat:( I have experienced these types of discrimination to many times. Sexual harassment? I have also experienced this type of behavior several several times over a 29yr career. Thankfully this has subsided in recent years, primarily due to my age and demeanor. I have also changed my goals regarding my profession, to just survival, until I reach retirement. Do not feel badly for me, I am happily married to an extraordinarily wonderful lady. I am doing what I have always loved, helping others on a daily basis, as an Agency, E.R. nurse, thankfully my parents instilled in me an unabiding sense of determination, this coupled with my complete faith in my Lord Jesus Christ, have seen me through these unfortunate experiences. My main concern in this area is for those that will follow me in this profession, male and female :eek: As more males enter the profession, I believe these types of behavior, will surely fade. I see many posts here dealing with the Nursing shortage, which I feel is being perpetuated by nurses not helping one another, only dismembering perfectly viable staff for the reasons stated here. and many more. I do not seek retribution, only understanding of the truths of this message :cool:

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

Never "ate a young nurse", but I recall one seasoned nurse who tried to "eat me" as a young nurse. :chuckle

I embraced every new grad, every seasoned nurse new to the unit I would happen to be working on, and any other new staff member that appeared nervous as they started their new job.

As a former preceptor of new grads, I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming them to the field of nursing, teaching them by word and example those details they would need to adapt to the REAL WORLD OF NURSING, and assist them in gradually letting go of their need to be monitored as they were when they were students being monitored by their instructors. It's a wonderful feeling to watch the transition they make from being a new 'green' nursing grad to being well on their way as a real nurse! :)