Nurses that eat their young


A story about a nurse who is treated poorly by older nurses in her young career, She is determined to shows kindness to younger nurses but is stepped on and fooled. Does she become bitter, resentful, and carry on older tradition of eating the young ? Or, does she make peace with it and learn we are all human and such is life.

by kitcatt24, LPN (New)

Nurses that eat their young

I will have a side of humility with that...

My career beginning...

The phrase "nurses eat their young" is often said. I learned it quite early in my career. I was perplexed on why an older, wiser nurse would not want to show me the ropes, why they would they not want to guide me and mold me to their perfect mini me. Most of the time nurses did not want to be bothered with training others, they did not have time or they just plain did not care. Many times I was just left to fend for myself wondering if I was going to make a major error or worse actually kill somebody because nobody wanted to take the time to speak to me or give me eye contact. I promised early in my career I was never going to be to like that. I would always make that nurse feel welcomed and comfortable in coming to me for advice or questions. Feeling unwanted was such a horrible feeling.

I came through with all my promises year after year through many different types of jobs. I have always had the mentality that I treated people just how I wanted to be treated. It worked just find most of my life until 2013.

As the years move on...

I came across a person that I had never encountered before in my life. I met Shelly in June she was bubbly, fresh, not the sharpest tool in the shed but was so sweet. I invested quite a bit of time working with her, building her self-esteem up. Explaining reports and charts. The jobs we had at that time had a lot to do with marketing so we spent hours doing role playing on marketing scenarios. I taught her how to analyze reports, and compare it to our competitors. I was so proud of her on how well she caught on.

Well, there is also another saying "Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me". Shelly was playing me! She was collecting data the entire time in order to further here career, to take a jump forward. Shelly then moved forward in the company received an award with the information I gave her and claimed it as her own. Shelly got a pay raise and I stayed at the same rate. Shelly also moved up in positions and I stayed in the same position. I was so angry and upset. The thoughts that went through my head first, besides running her pretty blonde head over with my car was, This is why us older, wiser nurses eat our young. Yes I did run in the mirror and double checked. I have become that older nurse overnight. I am now protective of my knowledge. I felt worse now than when I was that young kid nurse who barely knew anything. I felt like I was tricked, I felt old, out played and too slow. This was never going to happen to me again, I told myself. I was never a ladder climber...but I certainly was not going to sit here and hold the dame thing while others climbed it!

Common ground...

So where is the common ground? Where you do stand where you not have to eat your younger coworkers for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you do not completely give them all of your trade secrets? Why this phrase is only said in the nursing field? Are we to be exempt from this type of behavior because our job is for caring for others? Do we have some sort of godly quality that makes us magical or something?

My promise...

I can promise to be kind to others, be caring and I can reflect on that one act to not be true to every young nurse out there, and not every older nurse eats their young. We all have knowledge to share and the only way this knowledge is going to be passed on is to share it and we will have to take that leap of faith as we do everyday as we care for or patients to empowers those who will be there when we can no longer go on.

I have been an LPN for 17 yrs I have worked in many different fields both clinical and non clinical, the very old and the very young. I am thankful everyday to have this gift.

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105 Comment(s)

rbs105, ADN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma, Education. Has 10 years experience. 113 Posts

This is a great story, but it is kind of presented in an "either/or" manner, and I'm not sure I agree.

Being nice, helpful, teaching, and sharing information does not result in someone taking your information as their own, getting promoted and leaving you in the dust: working with someone who is dishonest and deceitful results in them taking your ideas and information and presenting it as their own. They should not be confused. Being a jerk to Shelly may have resulted in you keeping your ideas, but I will argue that Shelly is an exception and to approach everyone with caution is probably smart, but it does not have anything to do with even considering for a moment, that being a jerk and keeping distance with other nurses is justifiable.

Time and time again, it has been proven that the act of eating your young does nothing for the morale and retention of your unit. When this happens, it actually compromises safety of your patients. That is completely wrong what Shelly did, but please, please don't start thinking that it has to be a choice of eating your young, or giving away your trade secrets. I am happy to send you a plethora of research to show this.

Thank you for sharing, and please don't give up!



Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website. 5,978 Posts

I think I'm going to start a thread about nurses eating their old. Between the things I've read here, plus experiences that I and colleagues my age have had, it could get interesting.

I think I'm going to start a thread about nurses eating their old. Between the things I've read here, plus experiences that I and colleagues my age have had, it could get interesting.

Please, do!


Has 25 years experience. 12,646 Posts

Are those women in the picture supposed to be older nurses enjoying a post NETY cigarette?

Sorry you had this happen, OP. I've precepted many nurses, and I'm being precepted now, and after over 20 years in the profession I'm pretty lucky this never happened either way.

Not_A_Hat_Person, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics, Home Health. Has 10 years experience. 2,900 Posts

Are we due for another round of "every nurse younger than me is a spoiled, entitled, incompetent snowflake?"


Has 25 years experience. 12,646 Posts

Are we due for another round of "every nurse younger than me is a spoiled, entitled, incompetent snowflake?"

Well... It is September. So, yes?

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience. 44 Articles; 260 Posts

Are we due for another round of "every nurse younger than me is a spoiled, entitled, incompetent snowflake?"

Maybe - it is a good reminder!


Specializes in ER, Med-surg. 454 Posts

I don't really think staff nursing is comparable to most other fields in this regard. "Avoiding sharing trade secrets" isn't... a thing in nursing care, or it shouldn't be. If you have "secrets" that lead to better patient care, share them. The focus is patient care, not playing "who's the better nurse." If you know something that will make your coworkers better at delivering safe and effective care to their patients- patients who could be yours tomorrow or in five minutes if the assignment changes, patients whose outcomes are much, much more important than "who gets a better annual review"- don't sit on that information in an effort to look better.

I've seen people do that, conceal information or withhold help to try to make new nurses look bad because they feel like it makes them look better in comparison, but it's ugly, and ultimately silly. If you're striving for a management position, be a good leader and shine among your peers for your ability to educate and inspire others. Don't try to push everybody else's practice down to make yours look taller. If you're not striving for management, playing "who is the better staff nurse" is a petty game that wastes energy, burns out nurses, and hurts patients.


Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website. 5,978 Posts

Are we due for another round of "every nurse younger than me is a spoiled, entitled, incompetent snowflake?"

I've never said that. I do think it's a fallacy that all older nurses just sit around sharpening their knives, waiting to nosh on newbies.

And as far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as having "trade secrets" in nursing. If you know something that will result in better care/outcomes for your patient and refuse to share it, that's just unethical.


Specializes in critical care. 5 Articles; 4,547 Posts

I think instead of feeling sabotaged by this person, you need to do a personal inventory. First of all, you trained her well enough that she is flourishing. YOU did that. Take pride in a job well done, because you know she couldn't do that alone.

Now, consider your own performance and see where you might be falling short. If you aren't seeing it, ASK. It is true you may have been treated unfairly. But it is also true you weren't.

If you choose to hold back on your orientees, you will be treating them unfairly. You will also be impacting the care of their patients.

Have the self confidence to train them to be the best. If you do that, and it is you who ultimately ends up on top, then you will deserve to be there, and you will KNOW that.


Specializes in Eventually Midwifery. Has 1+ years experience. 434 Posts

Wait, I'm confused. If you had great ideas and information, why did you not run with it? That could have been you getting a raise and promotion, could it not?

Otherwise, I agree with should be proud that your prodigy learned from you; you were partly responsible for her success. Be proud.