Step away from the old nurse!

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    Now realizing I am the old white haired nurse how attitudes have changed from my young fledgling nurse days when respect was a given, to attitudes shown today reflected in my articles by some funny/sometimes distasteful situations encountered in the past few years.

    Now reaching my 34th year in the nursing profession I am experiencing some humorous, interesting and distasteful situations where comments have been made that honestly offended me to the quick of my being. "Back in the day" as the older generation often refer to their era these situatons would never have occurred. There was a whole different level of respect for old nurses who were revered/feared at times by patients, doctors, and staff members alike.

    Reflecting back on my much younger years 1975 when first graduating as a fledgling nurse who came out of school well trained, required to wear our hair up off our collars (mine in a pony tail) so tight my eyes were slanted), tiny earrings (if any at all), nursing caps, and only clear nail polish on short cut fingernails. White uniforms, mostly dresses, with white support hose and white shoes. Finally someone came to the realization that maybe it was not a good idea for nurses to wear dresses possibly when they came across a rather large boned chunky nurse with a large buttocks bent over a hospital bed doing CPR with the tops of her panty hose, and print underwear showing, being all she could be. Maybe some scenario played out in the ER where they had to resume some kind of awkward positoin not suitable/remotely lady like position when one is wearing a dress.This time frame made me think of many older gray/white haired mentors-old nurses who wore their nursing caps iwth pride, on a good day did not "eat the young one's" as the expression goes, and taught us the right way to be a "real" nurse. Teaching/using the best techniques/policies (some long since outdated) of the time, so we would go on to be all we could be in our future careers in nursing. Many of the faces come to mind with names lost in my memory bank. Yes, some were scary in their demeanor, dingy (a few months short of retirement at the ripe age of 75) and some who had managed to maintain a sense of humor. Never was there any doubt who the professional in charge nurses were who did not have to demand respect it was given.

    Presently my looks consist of a pleasant round face, blessed wih good genes, with very few wrinkles, but my hair is a snow white in color. Once a red head, I have chemotherapy induced coloring, but not complaining because in this case
    bald was not beautiful, so glad to even have hair. Blessed to be a 20 year survior of breast cancer. Granted I do limp on occasion (from a totally different scenario involving an 1800 pound horse ) but do not deserve some of the blatant comments made to me recently about being an "old nurse" that I truly found offensive.

    My first example was one evening a very serious incident involving two residents that required me to call administration and 911 for police intervention is the most memorable one. First to arrive was a detective with a demeanor of total professionalism, matter of fact and who immediately began the intitial paper work necessary for a situation of this kind. A short time later a yery young looking (looked like he was 12) sheriff's deputy came in to assist. After introducing myself to him as the head nurse the first words to part his lips floored me. "Mam, aren't you to old to still be working as a nurse?"
    Totally stunned, it took me a minute to regroup but my quick wit soon surfaced with a trite reply "Young man, obviously your mother never taught you any manners!!" Turning to walk away I noticed a look of total disbelief on the face of the lead detective. Upon my return to the nurses station a short time later a demure, quiet deputy was sitting behind the desk with his head down not uttering a sound (maybe a slight whimper could be heard) diligently working on his paperwork.

    When my Director of Nurses arrived, who happened to be five years older than me, was given this little tidbit of information she was livid. Close to retirement age herself, but just the main fact their was such a total blatant disrespect of one of her nurses.

    My second example of someones mouth overriding their brain was a comment made by a family member one evening on a 3-11 shift. It had been a rough week, four days in a row of leaving late, returning home with "cankles" (your ankles/legs are all one) larger than usual for the simple fact a full moon phase brings out the best/worst in a long term care setting. A proven fact that the confusion level of some residents causes them to "fly" (fall) more and numerous 911 situations with medical emergencies seem more common.

    Hobbling up the hallway (my horse injured leg was screaming "elevate me NOW-no more walking!!" I was holding on to the hand rail for support. Even a little relief to take off some of the pressure even for a few seconds was much appreciated. Looking up I saw a male visitor whom in his moment of great wisdom, possibly trying to be funny, made this
    comment "Gee old nurse?-maybe you should just check in." At that very moment I am pulling from my inestinal fortitude because my brain is racing with bad words to spew-but thank heavens nothing parts my lips. A glance, my set jaw,
    and lack of response should have been a clue I was less than amused. Granted my sense of humor was a tad absent
    but come on I do work in LONG TERM CARE! A few days later revenge was mine, this same family member was wheeling his Dad down the hall, he made him stop when he saw me informing him "That is the best nurse here, I love her, she checks on me all the time!" Standing there red faced, stammering he managed to say "That is great Dad."

    NURSE ROCK!-Young and old we are health professionals who give care from our hearts. Most of us whould not give up our chosen career for anything. Well, maybe not today?????
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  2. Visit Lindsey McGraw profile page

    About Lindsey McGraw

    Joined: Jan '05; Posts: 32; Likes: 321
    3-11 Supervisor LTC; from US
    Specialty: 34 year(s) of experience in Med Sur, LTC

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  3. by   Dixielee
    Great post! I guess I am an old nurse too! I graduated in 1973 and still run around a busy ER like an idiot most days! I prefer the term "seasoned" to old

    Yes, we have come a long way since the days of the "Clinic" clod hopper shoes, the starched white dresses and cap. I for one was more than happy to get rid of the cap! I don't have gray hair (thanks to Miss Clarol), but I can certainly identify with your post.

    I loved the answer to the young police officer....that was perfect.

    I assume I will be doing this until I'm in my 70's so I continue to take classes to stay current, and am even thinking seriously about getting a Masters in Nursing Education. I know I will have to slow down a step at some point and won't be able to continue 12 hours in a busy ER, but if I can keep my mind sharp and my skills good, there are still a few things I can teach these young whipper snappers.
  4. by   ebear
    Thanks for this post, Lindsey. After hurling all of the disrespectful comments, lack of respect, and general condescending attitudes toward seasoned nurses, guess who the "kids" make a beeline for when they get their tails in a crack???
  5. by   applewhitern
    And yet a lot of people think we should raise the retirement age, due to the shortages in social security and medicare.
  6. by   Esme12
    I realized that I had become one of the senior staff on night in the ED when a particularly good looking Trooper was investing an accident. He "Yes Mam, No Mam, Thank you Mam"d" me until I told him that if he Mam'd me one more time I would start calling him son! That's when he told me I reminded him of his Grandmother and he was taught to respect his elders. I swear It wasn't that long ago that he'd be asking for my number.....I was heartbroken.

    On second thought....... I wish more of the younguns had respect for their elders.
  7. by   ebear
    What really infuriates me is when the younguns call me "Mama"!!!!! The last one to call me that was told calmly but firmly, "I'm not your mother but if you ever choose to call me that again, I WILL get my switch." Word spread. Most of us can still work circles around these disrespectful snot noses.
  8. by   Nikki 1984
    Although I found all of the post here very funny, I have noticed a complete lack of respect for people in general over the past several years. I don't always enjoy being called "Mam" , however, I do prefer it to the many other things that I've been called.It seems that the younger generation have little to no respect for themselves, much less for anyone else. It's really a shame too. I worked in a LTC facility in the south where manners used to be something they were very proud of. Now they are pretty much non-existent. Years ago, when my supervisor "requested" I do something for her I would practically run down anybody who got in my way. The last time I asked over the intercom for my CNA's to report to the nurses station I ended up having to go look for them because they never showed up. This was common practice at many of the facilities I've worked at over the years. I'd like to say that at least amongst the nurses there was still a level of respect being showed, but I would be lying. As an LPN who just got a new grad, two year RN as her D.O.N. I can only say that I hope with age and experience things will improve. The general attitude seems to be that they think they know it all, when they don't. But it has been my experience that it won't take alot of time before they come to me asking for help with something. I will help of course because in doing so I hope to teach them that you are never too old to ask questions. If at least one of them actually listens to me, I will feel I've done my job. I am 55 yrs. old and I certainly don't know everything there is to know about being a good nurse. The difference between them and I is that I am still willing to listen.
  9. by   VickyRN
    We live in a youth-obsessed, youth-worshiping society. Our society looks down on older people and can be particularly cruel to women as they age (just look at the misogynist way some "older" women in politics are treated by the mainstream media). The only consolation is that the Boomer generation - of which I am part - is the largest demographic group in US history, nearly 80 million strong. We are fast entering our senior years and comprise one-quarter of the US population. With so many of us, it will be difficult for society to continue to disrespect and disregard older persons. We will end up redefining what it means to grow old and forge new positive attitudes towards aging (particularly towards aging women) in our society. In a decade or two, it will no longer seem strange to see seventy-year-olds and even eighty-year-olds still active in the work force.
  10. by   MeTheRN
    Thank you for all your years of service. I'm my opinion, veteran nurses should be treated somewhat like army veterans. You have to deal with a lot of changes in the profession and policies while not losing sight of the big picture. When I graduated and started working in the ICU, I always sought out and befriended the older nurses because they were a wealth of information. They always knew little tricks to help me drop a dobhoff tube exactly right or how to quickly vagal down someone in SVT.

    I wonder if this treatment has to do with young nurses resenting being eaten? Maybe they put the older nurses out to pasture with a bit more vehemence because in their minds it's revenge?
  11. by   ebear
    Quote from Esme12
    I realized that I had become one of the senior staff on night in the ED when a particularly good looking Trooper was investing an accident. He "Yes Mam, No Mam, Thank you Mam"d" me until I told him that if he Mam'd me one more time I would start calling him son! That's when he told me I reminded him of his Grandmother and he was taught to respect his elders. I swear It wasn't that long ago that he'd be asking for my number.....I was heartbroken.

    On second thought....... I wish more of the younguns had respect for their elders.

    Oh, Emse! I KNOW! Isn't that such a rude awakening?! When the day came that I realized I was older than most of the DOCTORS, I was floored too! HA!!
  12. by   ymaudy
    I can't say I know what you guys are talking about, but as a new grad always needing help and eager to learn, I appreciate your experience and helpful attitudes =)
  13. by   hermine_magnora
    I really appreciate this article: such blatant disrespect for older nurses is common in our society, and as a group we need to address this issue. Let us also bear in mind that some of our nurses graduated from nursing schools while they were in their forties;so the term old nurse has no place here,and who said that old dogs cannot learn new tricks?How did they made it through nursing school in the first place? With the help of continuing education, and hands on practice they are just as effective, as young nurses. Let us also continue to nurture, and embrace our nursing staff so that they will maintain professionalism....remember that age is a number!
    Last edit by hermine_magnora on Oct 19, '11
  14. by   Who?Me?
    Going on 20+ years in nursing and while on some days I hate where medical care is headed, I still love nursing.

    No more requests for phone I am a colleague. I will gladly trade the dates (happily married) for the respect I get from the surgeons and my peers.

    When I reached 30 I felt like I finally knew something. At 40 others realized I did know what I was doing, and now it all seems to fall together more than it falls apart!

    Here's a toast to all the nurses! Young and experienced. It is a damned fine profession made all the better by having us in it.