Why Does Nursing Eat Its Young?

  1. I first heard this statement 20+ years ago from a nursing colleague. Recently, I heard it again from a professor in my graduate program. And, 30 years in the health field have shown me that it's TRUE -- our profession does not treat students and newcomers well at all! WHY?

    What is it about Nursing that causes so many of us to forget we were ever students or beginners? Is it something about the work that does this, or is it the type of people who are attracted to the profession? If you agree that this is a real problem, what can we as nurses do to resolve it?
  2. Visit Garry Halliday profile page

    About Garry Halliday

    Joined: Oct '98; Posts: 6
    Registered Nurse


  3. by   iamme445
    Nurses must be assertive and self motivated to make this their career especially in the specialty areas (which is all of nursing really). You are expected to be kind, theraputic and think in a level headed and critical manner toward patients, their families, arrogant doctors and nice ones too and be a general wealth of knowledge and have unending energy.
    A student or new grad with a lack of enthusiasm, motivation or one who appears lazy will never be helped by staff that is already on overload in the "helpful" category. Anyone with a nasty attitude will also not be accepted as they make the rest of the staff look bad. It is like being accepted into a new family... Someone who is curious, can see that something needs done or just asks if they may help or watch will be accepted quickly into the fold. There are new nurses to replace those that retire or go elsewhere so we must not be eating all of them.
    The problem exists but is it really a problem, most of the time it simply weeds out those that are not really happy being up to their armpits in human body fluids.
    I have tried being helpful and kind etc to those who are not accepted by the rest of the staff when hired as new grads or new ICU nurses and they have all left ICU or even left nursing all together. That was disappointing to me each time one left and it was a real energy drain to actively assist each one while they were still there.
  4. by   Garry Halliday
    You are certainly right about the demands that are placed on us as nurses. It often takes three hands and two sets of legs to keep up with all that we are expected to do, and to doit with sicker and sicker patients all the time. I admire the fact that you go out of your way to help those who don't quite fit in. I hope that at least one of them profits from your efforts and makes the turnaround. Keep trying. I genuinely believe that if more of us did what you describe, that this would create some momentum, and move other nurses in the same positive direction.
  5. by   Garry Halliday
    Last week, while working as a substitute clinical instructor in psychiatric nursing for a community college ADN program, two events occurred that illustrate both sides of the "student vs staff" equation.

    1. A very busy staff member asked a nursing student, who was sitting at the nursing station reading a chart, if she would take vital signs on a patient in alcohol withdrawals. The student declined, stating, "No, I'm too busy."

    2. The charge nurse on one of the unts told a student that she could not care for the patient she had selected, because the patient had become upset and thrown a chair down the hallway the preceeding evening (NOTE: students come to the hospital the day before clinical to select and research their patients; also, this student had taken care of this same patient the previous week.)

    In event #1, the staff member was rather irate. The student was oblivious of the situation. So, who was right?

    In event #2, the student asked me what to do. After discussing the situaton with her, we decided she would instead take a patient who had been assigned to another student who had called in sick that day. I elected not to push the point with the charge nurse, even though I'm pretty sure I could have won the argument. My concern that if anything went the slightest bit wrong, it would be "the student's" fault for sure. Did I do the right thing?
  6. by   janine3&5
    As a nursing student getting ready to graduate, I've had experiences with both wonderful nurses who truly love to teach and nurses who seem bothered by the mere presence of students. I think the majority of students find it intimidating just to be in the clinical setting, and want to do as much as possible to be helpful. We want to do and learn as much as we can, and the nurses that we work with determine whether or not we will have a good or bad clinical experience. It's fine that some don't want to teach, but then they should be comfortable enough with that to acknowledge it, to say, "I would rather not have a student follow me." The instructors would gladly change the student's asignment, and have that student have a good experience rather than put a student where she is not wanted. My best clinical experiences have been with nurses who don't mind questions, who are willing to walk you through new things, regardless of what kind of patients are dealt with. Try to remember when you were students!
  7. by   Newnurse
    I am a new grad working for the last 4 months at a small hospital on a very busy med-surg floor. For the most part I have found most of the experienced nurses to be supportive. I ask alot of questions, which must sometimes get tiring for them, but when I appoligize for bothering them, almost all say they would rather I ask than make a mistake that could cause harm. Of course there are some nurses that don't even want to acknowlege you are there, but I just try to stay out of their way and not do anything to annoy them. The LPN's have been the most helpful and enthusiastic about sharing their knowlege, and really seem to remember what it was like to be a newbee. All the stories I heard in nsg school of nurses eating their young really had me scared of entering the proffession, but it was'nt nearly as bad as I feared it would be. As others wrote, the new grad needs to have a eager to learn and team player attitude to be accepted, and make an extra effort to get along with everyone.
  8. by   jp#1
    Nursing eating it's young? Nursing eats it's young, old, sick, well, all! Why? After many, many years in nsg., I've had the opportunity to compare work environments. I think the tone is set by the managers and supervisors. The last unit I worked on, gossip and ill treatment of each was not tolerated by our supervisor. In fact, she promptly addressed it, and went so far as to bring both or all parties into her office to discuss it! We developed a very cohesive staff and remain friends to this day. Other work environments, I have seen negative behavior of fellow staff and students nurtured and encouraged. This is develops into a toxic and contagious situation. I think that's what we have today. Now, I am trying desperately to leave it. Just can't take the hostility toward each other. The main reason for treating student nurses badly, I think, is either they do not KNOW the answer or it feeds THEIR insecurity!! I can remember when nurses were comrades and nurturing of each other. It is terribly, terribly sad to see what we've done to each other. I feel very outdated in the workplace. Just my opinion.
  9. by   chili2641

    First off I would like to say that I am a CNA not a nursing student. Yes, I agree that nurses are a breed of their own. I have worked as a CNA since I was eighteen years old. I am now twenty-five years old. I have read alot of information about the nursing shortage. I think some nurses chase those under their command out of the field. There is a wealth of undeveloped talent in the nurse aid pool. We need to encourage these folks to pursue nursing degrees. I realize that some aids would make poor nurses and others such as myself will pursue college degrees in other fields. It seems to me we are to busy tripping over are college educations. Nursing is about patient care.

    Nursing assistant
  10. by   ruth
    Garry- I'm repyling to your post(which was posted awhile back) and am surprised no one has responded! I'm refering to event #2 where a patient had thrown a chair down the hall the night before. In the AM the charge nurse told your student she would not be able to work with this patient. The student had worked with this patient the week before. You assigned the student a different patient. You stated that you were pretty sure you could win the arguement(with the charge nurse to let the student work with the original patient). You asked if you did the right thing. Of course you did! Not because you shouldn't confront the charge nurse though or that if anything happened it would be "the student's" fault. It's because it may be very unsafe for the student! This was definitely not the time for a learning experience. I would only assign one the most experienced nurses to this patient, hopefully one with knowledge of "behavior management techniques." I would not assign a pregnant nurse either. Also, I'm sure risk management, and any court, would find the charge nurse, hospital, you, and your institution liable if something happened. I don't think anyone would believe it was "the student's" fault. Do you really feel this way or didn't you think this thru before posting?
  11. by   mustangsheba
    I just saw these posting today. Somehow, they get buried. May I say about the student who was "too busy" to do vitals for an RN - Where was her/his head? Is this going to be the nurse that is so busy getting charting done that patient care goes undone? Your student should not have taken care of the potentially dangerous patient. The charge nurse made a good decision.
  12. by   oramar
    here us a link that explains to a great degree what is going on and even offers some solutions:, http://community.nursingspectrum.com...le.cfm?AID=176

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 27, 2001).]
  13. by   prmenrs
    Keep this in mind: Unless those youngsters get on in here and start helping out, WE'LL never get to retire!!!
  14. by   Charles S. Smith, RN, MS
    I, too, have heard, felt, witnessed, experienced the feeding frenzy around new and/or inexperienced staff memebers. Over the last 30 years, I have come to understand that RNs are HUMAN first and nurses second. Is this an important consideration? For me, yes, because it lends some plausible explanation to the issue of personal destruction of other people. I have found that the unhappy nurses are just as unhappy outside of nursing, that the nurses with personality issues in the workplace have just as many issues outside the workplace, but somehow these negative issues in the workplace get rewarded. We were taught as nursing students to treat the patient with dignity, but somehow missed the fact that all persons, including our nursing colleagues, must be treated with dignity and respect too. Simple, honest, open, direct communication is the easiest way to combat the negativity, but the hardest to learn. But it must start with the individual. I can not take responsibility for any one else but me or blame any one else for my shortcomings. Somehow we, as a group, have lost the ability to look inside for answers. In fact, we may even function at the level of "the oppressed group" behaviorally. I work on me first and hope that my role modeling of positive behaviors (as I learn and enact them) gives others pause to reflect.