Why do we eat our young?

  1. I'm a float pool nurse at my hospital so I bounce around, a lot. Wherever they need me, I go. So I'm pretty well known around the hospital, favorably, thank goodness. The past few months, I was pretty regular on one unit and had the pleasure of working closely with a new grad. I really like her. She was eager to learn, asked a lot of questions, optimistic, enthusiastic... You know, in the new nurse phase. She was good, really, really good at her skills. I guess I kind of took her under my wing while I was working on that unit. I didn't mind answering her questions. I applauded her for asking questions. Better ask than try to go it alone when you aren't sure what/how to do something and injure a patient, right?

    Well, past few weeks I have been on another unit until this past weekend, I found myself back on her unit, only during the day shift. I was in the break room collecting my things at the end of my shift (happily I might add) when she walked in, looking both stressed to the gills yet a bit relieved at the same time. She immediately stated "OHHHH!!!!!! You're working here tonight!!!!!!!" And of course I was initially flattered that she was so happy that I might be working with her, but when I replied, "oh no, I'm leaving, I worked the day shift", her eyes immediately filled with tears and she just broke into sobs. Knowing that she would be eaten alive if anyone else seen this, I rushed to the breakroom door and locked it. I just wanted to give her that chance to get her cry out. The poor kid, went on to tell me that life had been hell on her unit. She felt like no one liked her, everyone got mad when she asked questions, and she felt thrown to the wolves. She was really hoping I was working because I had patience with her. She told me that she frequently heard the other nurses talking behind her back about how slow she is and that she doesn't take initiative to do anything on her own. Then she asked me the doomed question... "is it like this everywhere or just here?" and then she went on to say the statement so many new nurses say... "I HATE THIS JOB! I HATE BEING A NURSE!!!" and then she said, in a very defeated voice... "maybe I just wasn't meant to be a nurse, maybe I just suck at it". And my heart just broke. It broke wide open for her.

    All I could do was console her. Put my arm around her and let her cry it out then reassure her that NO, you don't hate being a nurse. And YES, you are a GREAT nurse because you recognize when you need help and you are trying to seek it out... what makes you great is because you are thinking of the patient first, whether you realize it or not, you are putting your patient first because you don't want to do the wrong thing or make a mistake! That, to me, makes a phenomenal nurse. How in the world is a new nurse supposed to learn how to take innitiave if the new nurse can't ask for the help she needs out of fear of being ripped apart for it. Yes, we all need to be autonomous, but, we have to learn... I know we are all busy and all stressed, but come on, we've all been new nurses... We've all been there, why do some (not all) nurses forget where they came from and how they started?

    I just had to get this out because my heart just broke for her. I hope I was able to console her enough and I pray she will not be one of the many new nurses that leave the profession after a year or so because of things like this... I just don't understand why we eat our young. Well, hopefully I helped and hopefully soon I'll be on her unit again. Hopefully she'll soon find her niche and she will prove to the world just how awesome of a nurse she is.
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    About jreynrn

    Joined: Sep '12; Posts: 10; Likes: 46
    RN-BSN; from US
    Specialty: Med/Surg, Rehab, OR


  3. by   RNperdiem
    When a person starts in a new venture that takes skill, there is a beginners "honeymoon period". Everything is wonderful, everyone is great and you love what you are doing and you are excited for the future.
    When the novelty wears off, there comes the drop in morale. This is harder than I thought, I am not making much progress, I feel miserable.
    Most people will recover from the swings of the honeymoon and the low morale to a more workable state. I hope that new nurse keeps on and starts to feel better soon.
  4. by   jadelpn
    This story breaks my heart. Poor kid! Here's what I would do. Grab a notebook. Write in in some answers to the questions she had when she was with you. A list of where you find out clinical information if you need it. (there's reference books on the unit? Or online guides?) Write perhaps what works for you and how you set up your day. Give it to her and have her carry it on her clipboard. Have her write down any questions that she may have that she perhaps felt like she did not get a great answer to. Remind her to use her charge nurse accordingly for any sort of questions that may not have gotten a straight answer from the precepting nurse. If you are a well regarded member of the team, I would go right to the unit manager, ask to be put on the unit to precept this nurse for the rest of her orientation period. Or ask if that you can "follow" her and mentor her if it is not feasible for you to be on one unit that long. Because you are interested in her talent and strengths as a clinical leader.
    One of the best things that a senior nurse did for me was to photocopy a few "cheat sheets" to some of my lesser clinical skills (Ok , lets be honest, tele to me is like watching paint dry, however, I could put an IV in just about anyone....LOL). Remind her to be mindful--everything has a place in an overall picture. Write out how you do a head to toe. Remind her to pay close attention in report as to establish baseline. Anything off of that is a change. Changes happen for a reason. Then we need to assess well to get the information needed to report the change. It is up to the doctor to then determine orders (or not) based on your assessment of a change.
    Mean people stink. But unfortunetely, part of life. It is hard to be a nice girl and not get nice in return. Do NOT internalize, Do NOT personalize and when you walk out the door at the end of your shift, you are done until you walk in the next time.
  5. by   fakebee
    Your comment that you rushed to lock the break room door when she started crying " because she would be eaten alive if anyone else saw this" makes me think you were already aware of the negative culture present on this floor. If the standard response in your hospital is to eat an employee alive when they become emotional you need to have a serious sit down with your CNO and discuss your observations. I agree with a previous poster that everyone has that honeymoon phase, falls off the cliff, and then some get up, dust themselves off and climb back up the cliff but the least we can do is lend a hand to pull them upright or help cushion the fall. The first year is so hard we don't need to make it even worse.
    Last edit by fakebee on Jan 15, '13
  6. by   llg
    Why do some people eat our young? For the same reason we eat our old, and middle aged, and our leaders, and our followers ... and everyone else. The health care industry is a stressful one. Lives are at stake. People stress about that. They are also overworked and may be dealing with a host of other stresses in their lives. etc. etc. etc. Our world is stressful and sometimes, not pretty.

    For many young nurses, their first RN job is their first indepth experience with an adult workplace. There are books written about the struggles that young adults face when they go from being a "shielded" student to being held accountable as a responsible adult. That life transition can be a stressful process in any field. Add the stress of lives at stake and shift rotations, and it is to be expected that the transition will be a stressful one for a young nurse.

    Much has been written about the phenomena of Reality Shock and Transition Shock -- both of which basically explain why the morale of new grads tends to plummet a few weeks/months after hire -- even when they receive reasonable treatment. Anyone not well-versed in these processes should do some homework. They explain a lot.

    Reality Shock: The new grads are confronted with the fact that their reality is not the "pie in the sky" fantasy of their dreams. They also discover that they are not the "perfect nurses" they thought they would be: they make mistakes and have a lot to learn. Confronting these realities causes them to feel disappointed, discouraged, and betrayed by a world who led them to believe that everything would be wonderful once they got a job.

    Transition Shock: Adapting to a new place, new people, new routines, new demands, etc. takes energy. Over time, the expenditure of that energy causes the new grad to feel tired and "drained" of the physical and psychological energy needed to cope with challenges. If they don't find a way to re-charge their batteries, they start to decompensate.

    I don't know the details in the case described in the OP, but to assume that this young nurse has been abused or treated unfairly based only on her meltdown is not fair to the experienced nurses who work on that unit. It is abusive to automatically blame them without giving them a fair "hearing." And being unfair to the experienced nurses is just as bad as being unfair to the new nurse.
    We need to stop assuming that everyone who is unhappy is the victim of abuse -- and stop battering the experienced nurses who are continually being blamed for everything unpleasant in the world of nursing.

    I wish the young nurse in the OP well. I really do. But I also wish the experienced nurses she works with well, too.
  7. by   OCNRN63
    I don't know the details in the case described in the OP, but to assume that this young nurse has been abused or treated unfairly based only on her meltdown is not fair to the experienced nurses who work on that unit. It is abusive to automatically blame them without giving them a fair "hearing."
    And being unfair to the experienced nurses is just as bad as being unfair to the new nurse.
    We need to stop assuming that everyone who is unhappy is the victim of abuse -- and stop battering the experienced nurses who are continually being blamed for everything unpleasant in the world of nursing.

    Thank you for bringing this up, llg. We need to nurture our co-workers no matter if they're new or have been part of the unit since the first brick was laid, so to speak.
  8. by   klone
    because they're tender and tasty
  9. by   ThePrincessBride
    Because too many "old-timers" are so far removed for their first year(s) as nurses they forget what the new grad/inexperienced nurse is going through. I myself have been mistreated by clinical instructors who had been nurses for years and had not an ounce of compassion. I have found that the younger nurses or the nurses pursuing a higher degree (and thus "newbies" on a different level themselves) are more understanding and less like drill sergeants trying to weed people mercilessly.

    I wish there were more nurses like you, I really do. I am a believer that young nurses are being chewed out moreso than the experienced nurses care to realize. Everyone starts out somewhere, and I wish every experienced nurse would remember their first day on their own.
  10. by   anotherone
    I have only been on my unit for rwo years and I have already precepted ( we do not volunteer for this) at least 15 new grads . this was a quick count . all i want to do sometimes is go in assess pts, give meds, chart and be done with it. on my schedule without 5655 interuptions, advice ignored, no initiative, lack of thinking on and on and on. I was mostly oriented in a boot camp style and only a few of my cohorts are still there. only the strong survived. not saying it was ideal but i see new grads now cry if they have to deal with an admission or 2 and it makes me wonder.
  11. by   jreynrn
    I agree with everything you've all said, I do. When I posted this initially, I just felt so bad for her. I was not blaming or accusing seasoned nurses of being abusive, I'm a seasoned nurse myself. Nor was I trying to imply that the young nurse was a victim. And I didn't rush to lock the door because I felt she was going to be abused... I wrote get eaten alive for a lack of better words. I meant more be overwhelmed by people coming in and seeing her in a meltdown state and have everyone rushing over her with "what's wrong, why are you crying..." etc. I wanted to give her that one on one of just listening to her and let her get it off her chest, compose herself, stand back up and dust herself off and reassure her. We all deserve that once in a while, don't we? I believe I said, "some (not all)" experienced nurses can act this way toward the newer nurses. That's all. All I was trying to do here by making my post, was to vent a little, because I felt bad for her. I know remember how it felt in my first year of being a nurse and I remember feeling the way she did that afternoon a few times and its a horrible feeling. It was never my intention to offend any seasoned nurses. I was just venting. That's all...
  12. by   hiddencatRN
    I think I've been pretty lucky as a new nurse. The nurses that have been less than pleasant to be are that way to everyone they work with, so I haven't felt the least urge to take it personally. The "old bats" I work and have worked with are always GREAT resources when I have a question or have needed advice. There's one that comes to mind in particular: she's very by the book and my preceptor told me she has a tendency to write people up a lot.....but any time I've had a question or had to do a procedure I've never done before, she is patient, direct, acts like she has nothing better to do than make sure I understand what I'm about to do.

    Maybe I went to my first job with more realistic expectations that new grads who feel constantly beaten down. Maybe I've just lucked in to really supportive environments. I really struggled with anxiety issues prior to starting nursing school, and did a lot of work on that, so maybe that's been a big factor too. Maybe all new grads need pre-emptive cognitive behavior therapy lol.
  13. by   mclennan
    In my experience, new AND old nurses share the blame for this phenomenon, and neither want to take responsibility.

    A lot of the "young" make themselves look pretty tasty by their lack of work ethic, sense of entitlement, poor communication skills, immaturity, unrealistic expectations & reactionary emotional response to EVERYTHING. Then when they get called on it, they cry and play "poor victim," usually get defensive and all-out refuse to take responsibility for their own actions or thoughts. Rather than learn self-recognizance, the art of reflection or have a sense of humor or honor, too many newbies choose to react, blame, and deflect. That's an unfortunately common characteristic of being "young."

    Many old bats also seem to want to refuse to accept their role in this stereotype. I've seen some be AWFUL to new grads. Too often they are complacent with the "boot camp" mentality, grinding their axes on the heads of those they precept. I think too many old timers have deep-seated issues with facing the facts that they are aging, and all the aspects about it. They use their wisdom & knowledge as a blunt instrument rather than a constructive tool. Many are bitter or burnt out and can't admit misery loves company. And again, when called on it? You guessed it: defensive, blaming and deflecting.

    All of this 'eating our young' nonsense is really becoming a tiresome discussion. Maybe if we all made a conscious choice to practice some self-control and personal responsibility in the name of combatting this stupid stereotype, it wouldn't be such a burning issue all the time. Maybe then we could focus on IMPORTANT issues facing our unstable profession these days.
  14. by   beeker
    Because we are a tired,worn out bunch of *******. It is terrible, but I see it happen daily where I work. At least the night shift is new grad friendly.
    Last edit by Esme12 on Jan 16, '13 : Reason: TOS/profanity/use of letters and symbols