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  • Writer's pictureRnMindset

Why Do Nurses Eat Their Young

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Nursing is an amazing profession that helps people during illness and death. To think that nurses are not kind people might be a surprise to some people, but for people that work in the medical field, nurses are also people, people that are not immune to emotions and frustrations just like everybody else. If you are a new nurse, or are a prospective nurse, please understand that it is true that nurses eat their young, but understanding why may help you understand how to deal with nurses that are hostile to young nurses.

Nursing is an interesting profession. It is a career where there is room for growth and job advancement, and a dead end job at the same time. There are ways for nurses to make more money, and get promotions without having to go back to school, but most nursing jobs that are higher up the hierarchy require advanced education.

For many nurses, advanced education is available through online programs making it possible to go back to school. For a lot of nurses, however, even with the easy access to online school there might be too many life events making it hard or even impossible to go back to school. It would be hard for the nurse who graduated at the top of her class in her undergraduate, but because of expensive hospital bills from unexpected ER visits, housing expenses rising, car trouble, and so many other factors that this stellar nurse isn't able to go back to school.

Not being able to go back to school, and feeling the frustrations with younger nurses who might still have the opportunity, can cause resentment towards younger nurses. While this is only one scenario, there are many other reasons why there can be resentment and hostility towards younger nurses. The main thing to remember here is that within nursing there is a hierarchy, and the schooling is only one part. There is a "hidden" hierarchy among nurses in every location and specialty that it is important for new nurses to understand.

The hidden hierarchy of nurses includes which nurses have been nurses the longest, who has been on the unit the longest, which nurse is the most aggressive, which nurse works the hardest etc. These are still only a few examples, and as far as the "hierarchy" goes, the level of made up importance in these situations can be interchangeable. It is not set in stone of which is more important, such as a nurse who has been a nurse longer, or a nurse who has been on the unit longer.

When you are a new nurse jumping into the unit head first, you are basically jumping into a pool of sharks that are already swimming at their own pace. It is up to you to remember that you are a new nurse now, but you will only continue to grow as a nurse. Year by year you will get better at your job, and the insecurities you feel as a new grad will gradually go away.

It is common to feel intimidated as a new nurse, especially if you have no prior healthcare experience aside from you clinical hours, but as long as you are working to understand why nurses might be frustrated you will at least be able to look out for yourself and avoid the frustrations of dealing with difficult nurses.

Be as assertive as you can with all nurses, and hold your ground when it comes to working with difficult nurses. Don't be passive and let a grumpy nurse make your work life hell. If you need help, there are many people that are able to help you, HR, charge nurse, director of nursing. Remember, everybody has to be new, it is embarrassing and frustrating, but if you work hard and continue to learn your job, you won't be the "new grad" for long, and you will be able to enjoy your career.


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