Guest Author - Bethany Derricott, BSN, RN
We all remember coming face-to-face with a Nurse Ratched or two, during our tenures as new nurses. She was always referred to as the “good nurse,” by coworkers, physicians and administrators, but she seemed to have it in for new nurses and would go well out of her way to make their work lives a living hell! The enthusiasm of a new nurse would whither at the mere thought of her!
The History of Nurses “Eating Their Young”
The idea of nurses “eating their young” has been a sort of hazing ritual performed by some nurses for decades. Sometimes this ritual is lighthearted teasing. While other times it can manifest as cruelty and harassment. Similar to the cycle of abuse, one nurse does it to another and that nurse does it to the next nurse. Fortunately, with the creation and enforcement of harassment laws, the coming of age of the Gen Y and Xers, who seem to be much less tolerant of such behavior, and the nursing shortage, it is becoming less acceptable for nurses to eat their young.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Young
New grads are faced with multiple challenges as they transition into the role of the nurse. They often lack self-confidence in their nursing abilities, but must still learn to deal with ill patients and their families, and life and death issues, not to mention the stress of shift work. New nurses must also scramble to keep up with the pace of health care environments where patients are sicker than in the past. As everyone takes steps to curtail the nursing shortage, it is imperative that new nurses feel welcomed and supported as they enter into their new careers. Having nurturing co-workers versus “Nurse Ratcheds,” can help fledgling nurses learn to adjust and even thrive in their nursing practices.
Tips for the Care & Feeding (versus Eating) of New Grads
Below is a list of activities you can implement to support new grads as they "grow" into nurses.
1. Take a course on mentoring. This will help you learn about and deal with the issues facing new grads.
2. Volunteer to be a resource person to new grads on your floor or unit.
3. Offer to create and teach a course especially for new nurses.
4. Start and lead a support group where you work with new grads.
5. Encourage new grads to journal regularly about their experiences. Writing is one of the best ways to process difficult emotions.
6. Plan a Welcome Party for the new nurses on your floor.
7. Notify new grads on your shift when you are performing nursing skills that may be challenging for them.
8. Be patient and helpful. Above all else, new grads need to feel they can ask for help without being belittled or embarrassed.
As nurses, we all want better staffing and a happy work environment. Grooming and nurturing new nurses may help to increase staffing levels and lessen the stress felt by patients and experienced nurses. Remember, you need new nurses as much as they need you. So, don’t eat your young…