Eating the young, revisited

Stories - Teeth BitingAs a new nurse, I’m all too familiar with the proclivity for older nurses to try and intimidate newer, less experienced nurses.  This concept, this idea, this fact, has been around for a very long time.  After all, the colloquial saying, “Nurses eat their young” wasn’t created yesterday.

Whilst in nursing school, I worked as a CNA, a thankless and backbreaking job.  I, as well as other nursing assistants, were periodically abused, exploited, or thrown under the proverbial bus.  The lesser experienced nurses, in particular, were usually the culprits.  As I reflect on it now, I just think they were fulfilling the cycle of violence: doing unto others, as had been done to them.

I think nurses start eating their young before they even leave the nest of nursing school.  When student nurses hit the floor, wolves seem to surreptitiously appear in sheep’s clothing.  The nurse you just met, a professional you admire, starts to take advantage of you.  Or your instructor, a mentor, chooses to humiliate you publicly, as if public shaming is a didactic best practice.

When I first wrote this story for Mighty Nurse more than a year ago, I was angry, especially at my alma mater.  I’m not angry anymore; I’ve had time to reflect.  I think that, overall, the toxicity that pervades our profession as a whole now taints all aspects of the nursing experience, including nursing school.

Over the last year, I’ve witnessed a new type of lateral violence.  I’m sure it isn’t new to the profession, but it’s new to me.  I’ve witnessed nurses, especially veterans, picking on first and second year residents.  I haven’t noticed this abuse until now, but I find it equally repugnant.

As a profession, we must end lateral violence.  I wish I had a magic bullet, but I don’t.  I think the best way to end abuse is to acknowledge it, address it, and move on.

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