“Nurses eat their young!”
Have you ever heard that before? To my new nurses out there, you may not have heard it yet but you will. To my experienced nurses, you’ve probably heard and experienced this first hand.
What exactly does that statement mean? How is that statement meant to be taken?
Honestly, to me, when I hear that statement I instantly hear “no one treats nurses worse than other nurses.” That mentality is what leads to a toxic team.
My current coworkers are amazing, I cannot say that about a previous place of employment, however. It was the true definition of a “toxic team”. The older or more experienced nurses there took pride in “eating their young”. At that time I worked with a team that spent more time criticizing my every move and looking for mistakes than teaching me what I need to know as an inexperienced ICU nurse. There was a nurse that took PRIDE in the fact that other nurses were afraid to give them bedside report! It did not matter what you did. You could have coded a patient 3 times that shift, just come back from a repeat head CT, after emergent OR. This team member would question you on why the room is messy or why the 1900/0700 (depending on the shift) med was not given. Really? REALLY? I JUST SPENT 12 HOURS TRYING TO KEEP THIS PERSON ALIVE AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A TYLENOL NOT BEING GIVEN?
I asked other coworkers why this person was like that, and that’s the first time I heard “nurses eat their young”. Not only was this the answer but it was also given with a “justification”. Nurses that believe in this motto try to explain it as giving you, a nurse, a “real world experience”. They want to “break you in”. They want you to understand that the “NCLEX” world isn’t real. They want to toughen you up and make you a “better” nurse. They have countless reasons for why they are a bitch. It is NOT ok! There are plenty of ways to help a nurse develop and constantly being toxic is not one of them
I finally got sick of the crap so I went to my nurse manager. Her response? “Give them the same crap back. Stand your ground.” Not what I expected her to say but exactly what I needed to hear. I did just that. Whenever this team member started with their shit I shut it down. Quickly. It did take a few times but ultimately this young nurse did not get eaten.
If you are a senior nurse please take a moment to remember a few things: There are ways to ask questions during report about an uncompleted task without being accusatory. There are positive ways of giving feedback to a nurse that may be lacking knowledge in an area. There are positive ways to help the “baby nurse” to transition from the NCLEX world to the real nursing world (and it is a big transition). Basically, there are ways to address issues where a nurse may not be up to par without being an asshole about it.
If you are the baby nurse please understand that you do not have to accept this toxic behavior. You can speak up, and you should. You don’t have to be confrontational. If you are not comfortable speaking to that nurse directly, address it with your nurse manager. If your manager chooses not to address the behavior then just know you are *probably* working on a shitty unit and you should *probably* start looking for a better place of employment.