Locker Room Talk

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    A Baby Boomer seeks the ear of a millennial, pondering how her generation of nurses is seen by young, new graduates.

    Locker Room Talk

    A seasoned nursing colleague tells me we're invisible to people under 30. Is this true for veteran nurses and new graduates? What are you saying about us in the locker room? Are we even on your radar? We look at you, your young limbs and unlined face. We remember being in your shoes, thankful we survived the rigors of nursing school and passed the dreaded NCLEX exam.

    When our career began, we wore a cap, a starched white uniform, white support hose and white nursing shoes. Our hair, like our male counterpart, had to be off our collars or pinned up. You have a thousand scrubs to choose from, one to reflect your personality, tout your school, or express your tastes.

    We marvel at your computer skills and texting abilities. You've never known life without a computer or cell phone. We remember doing lab and x-ray requests by hand and charting on paper with ink in three different colors, black for day shift, green for evening and red for nights.

    We've been made to believe the hospital will fall down if we don't show up. Our parents, survivors of the depression, beat that work ethic into us. You seem to know there's more to life than work. When a younger nurse calls in or asks to take off we're aghast. What, ask off for a holiday!? What is she/he thinking? You have to earn that privilege, work your way up. In the locker room, we grumble, "They're not even the one preparing the turkey? Why do they need the day off?"

    We've seen vast changes in healthcare, some for the better. Our intentions were good when we provided milk and Maalox at the bedside of our peptic ulcer patients. Doctors order said they were to drink 30 cc, alternating every other hour, only to discover this was the worst possible treatment. You discovered a pesky bacteria called H-pylori was the real culprit.

    Our cataract patients stayed several days. Heaven forbid they have nausea and vomiting. Allow that to happen and we'd undue the surgeon's good work. We kept our post-op patient supine with bilateral sandbags to keep the head level. You'll rarely see a cataract surgery unless you work for an ophthalmologist's office.

    Labor and delivery has changed. We saw the inclusion of fathers serving as a support person, but only if he attended prepared childbirth classes. Your expectant couple may be two mothers. Our newborns were wheeled back to the nursery, none of that rooming-in business. Fortunately, someone figured out this was an ideal time for new parents to get acquainted with their infant. On admission our laboring mother might admit to the recreational use of alcohol or pot. Your clinical rotation as a student likely included the horror of watching a baby withdrawing from narcotics. Opioid addiction is a household phrase today.

    One member of our team, whose position may have been eliminated by electronic medical records, was our unit secretary or ward clerk. A good one was like a dispatcher for law enforcement. She paid attention to everything and sent us where we needed to go. She prioritized wants and needs and told us which call light was most urgent. You don't have her to rely on. Your ability to maintain eye contact has been altered. You have a new appendage, a computer. You are responsible for all the data entry the unit secretary provided for us.

    We jokingly call menopause, "mental pause." There is truth in humor. There are days when we feel dull and miss our mental acuity. We learn to laugh at ourselves, but not too hard because our bladder control is not what it used to be. Are we grumpy or kind to you? Are we eager to share pearls of wisdom? How are you treated when you ask about a policy or a procedure? Do we respect you as colleagues, or do we act like Nurse Ratched? Do you know who she is?

    Are we co-exisiting, living in harmony and sharing a common goal? Do we come together in caring for our patients, or is there tension in the air? What are you saying about us in the locker room? Do we show up on your radar?
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About mejsp, MSN Pro

    Reflections from an old nurse on generational differences. Healthcare providers of yesterday versus today.

    Joined: Jul '09; Posts: 57; Likes: 150

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    29 Comments

  3. by   phalanx
    I am a millennial, entering my 8th year of nursing. When I began, we had paper charting, everything was done by paper and fax. I was even taught in school to stand up when a doctor came to the nurse's station to let them sit down. It's been a big transition over the past few years!
    I have a lot of respect for nurses who came before me and I have learned a great deal from them throughout my career. I feel "old school" in some ways because I feel similarly about the job ethics--I think it's kind of funny when my age peers get crabby about working on a holiday or on their birthdays (I was raised in a civil service family, however, so I never had the perspective that one was entitled to getting every special day off.) & I dislike that corporations have made it so that loyalty is an outdated value; I shouldn't have to leave my workplace in order to get a raise commensurate to the cost of living.
    I feel respected by most nurses from earlier generations, for the most part, and I hope that you all feel respected by us; of course there are grouches, but in my opinion that is less to do with age and more to do with personality and attitude. I don't like when the bad apples in my peer group cause everyone of my age to get lumped in to that stereotype, so I would not want to do it to others.

    I tend to think that a more diverse workplace is a stronger one, because we all bring different viewpoints, beliefs, experiences. We may be faster typers and stuffed chock-full of science, but the wealth of experience and knowledge y'all bring to the table is absolutely invaluable as well, and dismissing it would be pretty short-sighted.
  4. by   3ringnursing
    I remember using a yellow highlighter to D/C a Rx med on the med sheets ... writing "Noted" on written orders in a paper chart, and "24 hr chart check" in red ink on the night shift.

    A friend 20 years older than I said massages used to be a written order on the 3-11 shift.

    I took the last pencil & paper NCLEX, and lived through seeing many hospitals through changing over to computer charting (with doctor tantrums and all).

    Speaking of doctor tantrums: I've seen them throw phones, charts and chairs - and saw one slam open a door so hard it left a hole in the wall from the knob as he stormed down the stairwell.

    Ahhhh ... good times.
  5. by   Axgrinder
    I remember a nurse in 1997 flatly refused to get up and give her chair to a pompous cardiologist, followed by refusing to carry his charts and follow him around while he made his rounds. She told him, "I don't know what you are used to, but I'm NOT doing that". A loud verbal exchange ensued in the middle of the pod. She won.
  6. by   Davey Do
    Great article, mejsp! Took me down memory lane both as a patient, in the 60's for a T&A and appendectomy, in the 70's spending three months in a St. Louis hospital after an MVA, and as a new nurse in the 80's.

    I feel blessed being a part of the numerous transitions in the nursing field and relieved that I will be transitioning to retirement as soon as I feel like it.

    The supervising nurse of the OB unit told me as a student LPN in 1983, that she remembered as a nursing student of hearing the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

    My first job as a nurse was in a small nursing home. A resident there, a retired nurse, told me she became a nurse in 1940. She talked of what she thought of the new miracle drug, penicillin .

    I worked with a nurse in the late 80's who became a nurse in 1949. She said state boards were 11 essay questions.

    What a trip! What a blast!
  7. by   angeloublue22
    Quote from 3ringnursing
    I remember using a yellow highlighter to D/C a Rx med on the med sheets ... writing "Noted" on written orders in a paper chart, and "24 hr chart check" in red ink on the night shift.

    A friend 20 years older than I said massages used to be a written order on the 3-11 shift.

    I took the last pencil & paper NCLEX, and lived through seeing many hospitals through changing over to computer charting (with doctor tantrums and all).

    Speaking of doctor tantrums: I've seen them throw phones, charts and chairs - and saw one slam open a door so hard it left a hole in the wall from the knob as he stormed down the stairwell.

    Ahhhh ... good times.
    Wow, I really must be behind the times because I still haven't worked at a facility that doesn't do paper charting. I always work in low income areas. Hopefully, I'll be moving to a hospital who uses a computer system soon.

    On the topic though, when I was new nurse 7 years ago, I loved working with the more seasoned nurses because we would have a partnership in educating each other. I would have the new knowledge, just being out of school and they would teach me so much more. I'm so greatful to have had 3 seasoned nurses take me under their wings and become my mentors. Open conversation is key. Of course, I've also had older nurses that treated me like crap just because I was young but I still managed to gain some skills from them as well, by ignoring the attitude and being open to their education whenever I could. I think if people were more open, to both learn and educate each other, we would have a more knowledgeable and supportive nursing team. I really don't care how old or young someone is as long they treat people well.
  8. by   FullGlass
    I can bring a different perspective - I started my ABSN at age 53. Obviously, the vast majority of my classmates were in their 20s and 30s. I never once heard any of them make negative comments regarding a nurse or faculty member's age. They were in awe of good nurses and faculty members. They were also very nice to me and included me in social invitations and I made a close friend who is in her 20s - admittedly, I'm her "big sister." LOL

    As far as computers, millenials are great at social media and apps. However, they also struggle with enterprise level software like EHRs, which are very different from the tech the young people commonly use. My previous career was in high tech management (I'm not a technical expert or programmer), so I find EHRs easy to learn and ended up coaching many of the younger students. My internet-based research skills are just as good, or better than, those of most "young" people.

    Another interesting experience was that in group work, I was often appointed to give presentations or talk to professors, etc. My younger classmates would say, "You're older so you're better at talking to people." LOL

    My nursing school experience gave me great hope for our future - I met so many wonderful, dedicated, intelligent, and caring young people.
  9. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    I'm 56 and have been in nursing for 14 years. I've seen good and bad in both generations from my perspective. I'm a guy so in a profession that is 95% women so I probably bring a skewed and outside perspective to my opinion. What I'm about to share is based upon my experiences as a nurse and I'm not trying to generalize to the universe at large.

    Despite being older I prefer working with the younger generation of nurses. In my experience they treat nursing like a job instead of some calling from god that includes being put last and suffering. They don't think the hospital will cease to function if they call in sick so they do instead of coming in and being miserable while really accomplishing very little except spreading germs & misery. They are less likely to judge that which is none of their business. I've heard nurses judge who should have holidays or weekends of because of family situations or other circumstances that have no place in a workplace conversation. A young single nurse who wants Christmas off should not be judged because some other nurse has six kids who want her at home that day. They are both nurses who have a right to want that day off for their own reasons that have zero to do with work. They are also less likely to believe that some other nurse didn't "pay their dues" when they move on to more education or a better job. After all the same opportunities are / were presented to more seasoned nurses who just didn't grasp the opportunity for whatever reason & I always wondered who were they supposed to be paying dues to? Finally, they seem to be much more self-obsessed. This sounds like a bad thing but in nursing I think its great. Simply put they are too worried about themselves to really care or pry into another nurses personal life. They seem to go to work, do their job & go home. I've never seen a 20 something nurse sticking around after their shift to gossip about other nurses. On the other hand many nurses my age live for that vicarious titillation.
  10. by   PCnurse88
    If I'm being honest, us under-30 nurses -us under 30 PEOPLE, even- are sick of being thought of as children. What do we say in the locker room about you???? Seriously?? We aren't in high school anymore! We don't spend time gossiping in the locker room- we're too busy running around trying to meet the increasing demands of our job, worrying about how we're going to afford the $50k+ student loans we owe back, wondering if we're going to be able to pay rent this month, and bracing ourselves against the CONSTANT onslaughts of "well when I was your age..." and "kids these days".

    We aren't kids, and we aren't bothered by what nursing was like back in the day. We value your wisdom and knowledge, value your experience- when you're willing to share it instead of complaining about how when you were our age nurses had to wear white all white, had to give up their seats to doctors, patients stayed in the hospital for 10 days after giving birth, and there was paper charting. Times have changed for ALL of us. Yes, we're under 30, but we did not all learn to operate a computer and cell phone in the womb. We had rotary corded phones when we were kids. We didn't have internet until middle school. My first cell phone was given to me before entering high school, and the only features it had were calling- my first internet accessible cell phone came at age 23, AFTER I had been a nurse for a year! We all had to take the same charting classes you did- and we were forced into typing classes as kids so that we could adapt with the times.

    As for us young single nurses who want holidays off- no, we may not have children, but we have elderly grandparents or ailing parents who we may want to try and spend their last Christmas or Easter with. Our parents (ie., the older generation of nurses- YOU) did not "beat" an unhealthy and dangerous work ethic into us. I'm not coming to work with a temp of 102 just so I can potentially kill one of my immunosuppressed patients, or cause a delay in my patient getting their lead-less pacer because 3 days later they develop a fever too.

    I realize you did not mean for this post to be inflammatory, so I apologize for getting so defensive. But I'm sick of saying something and having someone say "oh, you kids!". I'm not a kid. I've got a masters degree. I am a homeowner and a car owner. I paid off tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. I'm responsible for peoples' lives 36+ hours a week, and teaching the future generation to do the same one day a week. We aren't teenagers gossiping in the break room about our teachers anymore- we are your colleagues. We treat you as colleagues and I really wish you'd start doing the same.

    If you're really that worried that your younger coworkers are talking behind your back or that you are invisible to them- why not invite them out? Go for drinks after work, or brunch one weekend. Talk to them. Become their friend. I think you'll see that while we may be younger, we are still people and probably have a lot in common with you. We don't bite.
  11. by   0.5GPA
    Quote from SpankedInPittsburgh
    I'm 56 and have been in nursing for 14 years. I've seen good and bad in both generations from my perspective. I'm a guy so in a profession that is 95% women so I probably bring a skewed and outside perspective to my opinion. What I'm about to share is based upon my experiences as a nurse and I'm not trying to generalize to the universe at large.

    Despite being older I prefer working with the younger generation of nurses. In my experience they treat nursing like a job instead of some calling from god that includes being put last and suffering. They don't think the hospital will cease to function if they call in sick so they do instead of coming in and being miserable while really accomplishing very little except spreading germs & misery. They are less likely to judge that which is none of their business. I've heard nurses judge who should have holidays or weekends of because of family situations or other circumstances that have no place in a workplace conversation. A young single nurse who wants Christmas off should not be judged because some other nurse has six kids who want her at home that day. They are both nurses who have a right to want that day off for their own reasons that have zero to do with work. They are also less likely to believe that some other nurse didn't "pay their dues" when they move on to more education or a better job. After all the same opportunities are / were presented to more seasoned nurses who just didn't grasp the opportunity for whatever reason & I always wondered who were they supposed to be paying dues to? Finally, they seem to be much more self-obsessed. This sounds like a bad thing but in nursing I think its great. Simply put they are too worried about themselves to really care or pry into another nurses personal life. They seem to go to work, do their job & go home. I've never seen a 20 something nurse sticking around after their shift to gossip about other nurses. On the other hand many nurses my age live for that vicarious titillation.
    Never paid attention to that until I read this that is very true. It seems to me a lot of drama is older fokes but not always. I'm a millennial (on the butt end of the scale towards the old side) I like going to work and then going home I don't care who's dating who or whatever dumb thing is going around but I am a guy also so maybe that's why lol
  12. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    Bravo PCnurse!!!
  13. by   Wuzzie
    You know us "older" nurses don't appreciate being painted with a broad brush either. By the OP or anybody else. There are going to be twits in every age group.
  14. by   Been there,done that
    Not invisible. The young 'uns are smart and know who they can count on. It was always a pleasure to be a resource.

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