Why Do Nurses Eat Their Own?

As current times have shown, we're short staffed. Administration wants to make money. So cuts are made to equipment and man power. Who has your back? Who can you rely on? Your fellow nurses? I'm not so sure anymore. Why do we as nurses eat our own when we should be teaching them and guarding them as our own. The fact is as we age our young nurses are going to be taking care of us, but there are those all too eager beavers who will in fact burn you. This is my experience.


Why Do Nurses Eat Their Own?

This is my own personal experience as to why nurses eat their own? I have been in nursing for 20+ years. I've watched a lot of nurses come and go and some trying to move up that corporate food chain leaving a path of destruction a mile wide in their path. It's a very sad thing to have witnessed nursing go from a caring environment to a volatile, stressful, "me" environment.

I personally have never thrown anyone under the bus but I have been thrown under the bus by a nurse trying to move up. I was shocked, not to be naive but how callus and calculating this nurse had become in such a short period of time. She was a new grad. I took her under my wing, taught her in a specialty area just to be told shortly thereafter that there were going to be cuts in this area, and I was one of the people being cut along with approximately 20 more nurses. I then found out that my underling I had taught was at the helm of helping administration make these cuts based on who had been there longest, made the most per hour and new grads or new hires would be cheaper. So it was done and my underling moved up to an office of ease while the rest of us were dispersed throughout the facility or some even let go destroying lives and careers.

Once moved to another area of the facility I witnessed a male nurse dating several other female nurses turning them against each other and ending up dating a charge nurse that was best friends with the manager of that department, so they were allowed to cuddle up at the nurses' station and pretty much did nothing else other than sneak outside. Yes all of this was reported by others than myself, however administration didn't care, bottom line was man hours not pt care.

I've since left that facility after many years. I am now at a new facility and have already picked up on the "eager" young nurses more than willing to talk behind other nurses' backs. This is disappointing. The nursing school and instructors of old that I had the privilege of going to and being taught by would be appalled and would not have tolerated for one moment. Is loyalty, character and earning your title without harming something taught in nursing schools? Should certain psychiatric characters be red flags for school administrators be implemented to prevent cannibalism within nursing?

I feel as if those great women who pioneered nursing to care for the sick, indigent and wounded would be so saddened by the "General Hospital", "Grays Anatomy"; "high school acting" nurses of today. On that note I don't want to diminish the fact that nurses have to be go-getters, usually type A, hungry for knowledge; however there's a professional line where we should have each other's back.

Nurses go to college to achieve a degree of higher learning along with all the nursing classes. You're professionals, intellectuals. Would you compromise your name, integrity and reputation for a easier schedule, a desk job, an office? All you have to do is help relocate or terminate 20 to 25 fellow nurses?

I am curious to the opinions of others, so please post. BTW this underling was moved back down the food chain and eventually out the door and with no friends or references to rely on now.

Before going down this road ask yourself. Why did I become a nurse? To help others who need it or to eat my young? If you answer or turn into the later, I fear you may be in the wrong profession...

I'm a nurse of 20+ years. Was taught by some wonderful rigid strict nursing instructors and for that I am now very thankful, back then not so much. They did instill integrity,honesty and a great since of pride into me for being a nurse. I fear Florence Nightingale would be ashamed of some nurses today.

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Has 6 years experience.

I can't get past the title. I might have been a good idea to hang around here for a while before choosing it.

Extra Pickles

1,403 Posts

You said you genuinely wanted opinions so here is mine, I think the title of this article is inflammatory and designed to get people to read something they otherwise might have just skipped over. I think that there are people who treat other people badly no matter what the profession and having yet another person harping about how Nurses Eat Their Own is just fanning a fire that should have been put out by now. I think that new nurses will cheer is and most experienced nurses will scoff at this and the whole thing will be pointless because in the end we all make our own beds, and we all must learn to lie in them. Reap what you sow, like that. There's nothing new about that!


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

152 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.
Pangea Reunited said:
I can't get past the title. I might have been a good idea to hang around here for a while before choosing it.

Titles are meant to draw in the readers......just like the titles of best-selling books. Who wants to read an article (or buy a book) with a boring title

This is a seasoned nurse (20 yrs exp and has been a member here for 2 years) sharing her personal experience.

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

Nurses don't "eat their own" (thanks for not throwing out "NETY" by the way). Callous, grasping, climbers aren't unique to nursing -- they're in every profession and industry. Yes, it is disappointing to mentor someone and have them turn on you -- but it seems to be a fact of life. My mother was a secretary and trained more than one man who was then promoted over her. My mother-in-law sold cosmetics and has offered up similar stories. My sister is a very successful climber and has stepped on many on her way up -- not unique to nursing.

I'm sorry you've had negative experiences in your nursing career -- we've all had some. I think the key to being happy in your life, your career, your job is to make up your mind to focus on the positive, not the negative. Most folks are exactly as happy as they make up their minds they're going to be, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln.

I would not be happy with myself if I thought I had been mean or underhanded in my treatment of someone else. I've always made decisions based on what I thought was right, not on what I thought was going to give me some big advantage. Others seem to think differently. I don't have to look at them in the mirror; I only have to look at myself. I don't have to befriend them, either, and I've chosen to end friendships with people who I've have seen to behave in less than honorable ways. I've never understood how someone can continue to be friends with a person that know to be self serving or dishonorable . . . How can you trust them?

OOPS! Rereading your last paragraph, I see you did stoop to the NETY accusation.

Alex_RN, BSN

333 Posts

Has 8 years experience.

"Nurse eat their own" has been what this topic has been called for decades, apparently. We all know what it means so it is an effective and accurate title.

twozer0, NP

1 Article; 293 Posts

Specializes in Urology. Has 16 years experience.

Well if they weren't so delicious we probably wouldn't eat them! :woot:

Altra, BSN, RN

6,255 Posts

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

Professional nurses take at least introductory-level college courses in psychology, sociology, and human development ... and have presumably functioned in group settings (family/school/work/etc) before becoming nurses. But some appear completely dumbfounded by the realities of typical adult interpersonal relations, including power games.

I have never understood this.

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 28 years experience.

It's a very competitive job market so perhaps there is more backstabbing in the atmosphere. Some nurses feel the best way to exhibit their talents is to put down another. Good management is willing to investigate and troubleshoot to make sure all the nurses are treated fairly. However, the problem with nursing is that nurses are trained to nurse, not manage. Consequently, many areas are managed by people who are not nurses. Others, have Nurse Managers, who don't know how to manage people. I think with all the changes in healthcare today, nursing education, should include some management education, corporate culture education and other management based education to help improve the nursing work area. Nurses eating their own is a phrase that does not do justice to the stressful working conditions that many of us experience. There are numerous pieces to this puzzle and I'm not sure exactly what they are. This article just points to the tip of the iceberg.

dudette10, MSN, RN

1 Article; 3,530 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Academics. Has 12 years experience.

If your "underling" had not been a part of the layoffs and re-assignments, it still would have happened.

Has 3 years experience.
Altra said:
Professional nurses take at least introductory-level college courses in psychology, sociology, and human development ... and have presumably functioned in group settings (family/school/work/etc) before becoming nurses. But some appear completely dumbfounded by the realities of typical adult interpersonal relations, including power games.

I have never understood this.

I can't understand power games, and do my best to keep my head down and not end up on someone's s*** list. I may have an understanding of group dynamics, from my previous psychology classes and from work experience, but that does not mean I want any part of it. I'm just not good at screwing people over.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

Had the same experience with a nurse I precepted, completely arrogant, ignorant, and lazy, and would toss anyone under the bus in a NY minute...... Was a complete jerk to me and many others..... Promoted in record time.