Do Nurses Eat Their Young?

I had been hired as a nurse tech prior to graduating from junior college in 1987. The RNs on the surgery floor where I worked loved me, probably because I did most of their grunt work.

In fact, they allowed me to do a lot more than I probably should have all in the name of teaching me and that “I would be a nurse soon.” I helped put down NG tubes, cleaned trachs, gave enemas, irrigated colostomies and changed a lot of surgical dressings.

Becoming the enemy

The day I got word I had passed my nursing boards and donned an RN name tag, I became the enemy.  I would ask for help with a new skill such as starting an IV. The response I received was ‘didn’t they teach you that in college?”

I was given the worst section of patients all over the unit instead of consecutive rooms, not to mention the hardest, most involved patients to care for. This went on for months.

I had an LPN tell me that I just had to prove myself and tough it out. That LPN gave me more help than my fellow RNs did and taught me more than I ever learned in nursing school.  That same LPN taught me not to take personal the more experienced nurses lack of help and to remember never to treat a new nurse the same way.

Understanding why

Since I graduated, there have been many articles about “nurses eating their young” but I have never had the appetite for young nurses that my older counterparts did.  I have learned that I had something few of those nurses had; a degree.

I recall asking that LPN that mentored me what the big deal was and she stated; “You are young, you will earn more than they ever will and go further than they ever can. Nursing is on the brink of changing the entire profession; they will retire before they see it.”

Creating a more ‘vegan’ workplace atmosphere

I always embraced new nurses and employees because of the way I was treated.  I never understood why the nurses treated me so poorly. After all, the alternative was for them to “work short.”

In my career in nursing management, I helped to implement a mentorship program in one facility where I was employed. New graduates worked three weeks hand in hand with another RN or LPN and then were kept an eye on by the mentor for another three weeks.  Some nurses flourished under being a mentor while others had the attitude “I came here to do my job not help someone else do theirs.”

In my 25-year nursing career I have always tried to instill the belief that until everyone’s job is done, no one’s job is done. My goal was to create an environment of teamwork, mentorship, and of course a more vegan approach to nursing where no one has an appetite for their nursing brothers and sisters coming up through the ranks.