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New and veteran nurses—an ongoing discussion

iStock | tkatsai
iStock | tkatsai

Yesterday, we posted a video that received a mixed bag of responses from our Scrubs Magazine Facebook community. The video, which featured Sean Dent, a ScrubsMag “nurseonality,” tackled the frustrations that come with being the mentor of a nurse who’s difficult and new to the field.

Some of you found the slight friction that can develop between new and seasoned nurses to be relatable. For others, the criticism touched a nerve, unsettling viewers who feared the tone might encourage nurse bullying.

Here at ScrubsMag, it’s never our intention to further the phenomenon best described as nurses “eating their young,” and we trust that our nurseonalities demonstrate the utmost respect for all nurses, at every stage in their career.

That said, we like to provide a forum for the honest expression of nurse sentiments, however raw they might be.

So here are a few of the thought-provoking comments that emerged in response to our video. Thanks to every nurse who contributed, and please keep the conversation alive!

1. “I don’t get upset at much and truly love most new nurses. BUT the ones who refuse to ask questions (especially the stupid questions) are going to be the ones [who] make stupid mistakes. No question is dumb if it keeps someone from getting hurt.” —Lauren

2. “This is exactly what’s wrong with this profession. Banding together to eat our young instead of uplifting and encouraging them. This is why many leave the profession within a year and why we have a shortage. I’m not sure about everyone else, but the last time I checked, I wasn’t born a nurse. I had to learn.” —Mercedes

3. “I agree with Mercedes…but it has gotten out of control the last few years. Many new nurses think they already know it all and/or act like you owe them! It has shifted too far in the other direction! Tired of this ‘eat your young’ comment!” —Lenora

3. “I blame the teachers who wouldn’t allow us the opportunity to learn even when we tried. (Speaking from my experience, and of course it wasn’t all teachers. Just a few, and mostly the clinical instructors.)” —Heather

4. “I get so tired of all the bickering/back biting with new nurses vs. seasoned nurses, night shift vs. day shift, CNAs/LPNs/RNs, etc. We are all in this together, and our focus needs to be caring for the patient…that is why we go to work. Remember, the patients are our job security. There are many opportunities in the nursing field. If you’re miserable in your current job, find another one.” —Tammy

5. “It’s so interesting to read all the feedback. Cocky brand-new nurses are dangerous (students, too); anyone who thinks they know it all is dangerous. The one thing I see here that comes from both sides of the fence is respect, or lack thereof, of each other. The knowledgeable nurses with years of practice [are] not getting respect from the newly qualified. The newly qualified [are] becoming terrified or being disrespected by older (more experienced) nurses. But [I can] say not all newly qualified nurses are like that. Not all experienced nurses want to shoot you down. Clearly there are bad ones and good ones out there; let’s not treat all the same because of a few. I am so grateful to nurses, students, HCAs who take the time to explain something to me that they have probably explained a million times over. I appreciate it when I ask a daft question and am put at ease and reassured by staff. I have so much respect for nurses, HCAs and the extended team who help to care for a patient. A little gratitude and respect go a long way—the job is hard enough and all the negativity that nurses face, we don’t need anymore in house.” —Llainy

6. “The problem with mentoring is that new nurses, not necessarily fresh out of school but fresh on the job, sometimes do not like mentoring. I’ve oriented a new nurse, and as I started to present our routine, she said, ‘No, I’m going to tell YOU what I need to know.’ It’s a whole new breed of nurses coming on the scene today.” —Jenny

7. “Two years post-grad here, and as a perpetual student, I’m humbled by what I don’t know! I seek information at every available opportunity and still do ‘homework’ after almost every shift. I look up to senior nurses and try to help out whenever possible. Senior nurses come to me with questions as I do with them. It’s an honor to be approached with a question or for advice by someone you expect to ‘know everything.’ We foster good relationships on our unit—no matter our personalities or likelihood of ever spending time together outside of work. Nursing is an independent-team sport! I think we must work together to be a great team so no matter your shift, you are always supported. Instilling that expectation (nicely) into new grads at the onset does wonders—so does helping them when they need it, even if they’re afraid to ask….” —Chrissy

8. “All nurses started from scratch. From student nurse to licensed novice to expert. I think it is just a matter of attitude and passion. Being novice nurses, we need to be open-minded to learn from our senior nurses, and likewise, as senior nurses, we need also to be open-minded to teach our young ones to know how to provide the best care possible.” —Dama

9. “I honestly didn’t take offense. The type of new nurses Sean describes [is] accurate. Too many took the video too seriously and out of context. Also, the know-it-all types that can’t be taught and are causing issues are of major concern because they can‘t see that they’ve made a mistake. I totally agree with the description of some that know nothing. We’ve had numerous GNs [who] have had to take the NCLEX multiple times. It’s best to sit back, learn your place and niche in the unit, and try to hopefully gain a repertoire with coworkers so that they may want to mentor and invest their time and knowledge into helping you succeed. I find that if the other nurses see that you have their back as well, they are more willing to put the effort into cultivating a member of their team. Some people are hard to win over no matter what. This job is serious, but some people take things to an extreme. Times are changing. The face of healthcare and government is changing and nursing has to change with it. Too many people want to live in the past, but in order to keep the pace, we as a profession must change our attitude as well. Respect is given where it is earned, and we all need to remember that; whether we are new or old, we all bring something to the table.” —Jen

10. “One problem is nurses who hate training other RNs are [being] asked to train. It will rarely work out when this happens. When possible, trainers should be those who enjoy the teaching process and have the patience for it. Not everyone is cut out to teach/train.” —Shelby

Clearly, this is a controversial but important issue among nurses. Please share your own thoughts (new and experienced nurses alike!) in the comments section below.

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One Response to New and veteran nurses—an ongoing discussion

  1. Bridgetmalain

    I’ve been a nurse for about a year, and already have started training to charge. I remember the nurse that trained me, she was tough but with compassion. I welcomed her knowledge and frequently asked questions because there were just something I didn’t know and wanted to know the reason behind things. She was great and i learned much! But once I finished the 8 week long orientation, I was on my own, and I felt alone at first, drowning not able to catch my breath. I would ask my charge nurse questions (a 30 year veteran) and before I can even finish I would get a “Google it” response. And as we all know, sometimes there just isn’t time to Google it. I was gasping for air. And soon there after I started researching everything on my own, which of course would have me behind on my tasks and took time out of my one on one patient care which is what I loved, the reason why I became a nurse. But not all vets are the same. I had done my first tracheostomy on my patient just the other night. I had asked another vet if she would mind talking me through it, since I haven’t done it since nursing school, and she was so happy to oblige, I was so grateful. When I become charge nurse, I vow to never treat a new nurse the way I was treated, we can all learn something from everyone. I feel an overwhelming excitement when someone asks me a question, or when a vet asks me just how long I’ve been a nurse and become spellbound at how much I do know. I’m not mad at my charge nurse who tells me to Google it, I feel like I’ve learned so much more with my own research, but at the same time, we are a team, and some learn with a hands on approach. If one of my team members are drowning, I pitch in, and help out, because experienced or not we all need a little help. So, my point is, helping each other is part of our profession, and sharing knowledge is the only way we can assure patient safety. When a new nurse asks a “dumb” question, answer it with a smile, because chances are, you have just made a huge impact on that nurse who was scared of making a mistake.